In today’s world, many of us are more connected than at any time in history, but still lonelier than ever.
The irony is that for many individuals and business owners, our network has grown exponentially. Global markets and governments also are more connected in ways that are unprecedented in comparison to other times and places in history.
If “connection” was measured by online behavior, most of us are doing pretty good. Use of multiple social media venues, news outlets, and email accounts are at an all time high.
Many of us also have a lot of in person “connections” with friends and work associates, yet these activities don’t shield us from the possibility of feeling disconnected and lonely.
This includes those of us who attend a church.
We show up in our Sunday best and when we enter through church doors, something happens. Our persona changes. It shifts. We’re like Clark Kent walking through the rotating door and coming out as Superman.
When we come out the other side of church doors, we are the religious equivalent, or at least we assume we need to be. Like we’re expected to change…to morph into a super version of ourselves that disregards our personality and our unique experience as human beings. We pretend that all is good and our faith in incredibly strong.
The reality is we are still human. We get sad, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt. We experience loss, loneliness, and rejection. We want to be known and accepted.
But instead we put on a face.
We act as if “it’s all good” and smile big. We talk about how life is so great and share all of our accomplishments when deep down we know it’s “not all good”. It true that it may not be “all bad” either. It’s just that there is more going on with most of us than we are letting on.
So why the show?
If we desperately need connection, why do we find ourselves turning away from it? Why do we hide and pretend?
At the core of being human, people want and need connection. But not just any connection. Remember we are technically “connected” in more ways now than ever, particularly in the online world. But many of us are not connected in the ways that matter most to our internal health–ways that meet those basic needs for psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual connection.
The truth is, we will only experience deeper connection by learning meaningful ways of engaging with others. This is true for everyone, including followers of Jesus. We are no exception.
I’ve been involved in Christian church communities since I was very young. Over the years, I’ve learned that church environments (like Sunday morning or Wednesday night services) often create barriers to developing relationships rooted in authenticity.
At church…we keep it surface.
We focus on production and performance.
We are overly cautious with what we share with people.
These postures became my practice too, for years. This was especially true as I became more and more involved in various leadership and teaching roles “in church”. In my involvement, I had made the assumption (because of what was modeled to me early on) that in order to be “a Christian leader,” I needed to have less problems, more faith, never doubt, and always speak positively.
What had under-girded this belief was the assumption that following Jesus meant bearing the weight of everyone else’s happiness and inspiration perpetually, not realizing that what is more inspiring than a perfect person (there is no such thing) is a real person.
Someone who practices that rare and raw honesty, humility, and transparency toward others. Someone who is real about the good things in life and the not so good, including the downright frustrating and disappointing parts.
All of us have life situations that are different and unique. We all experience life. Sharing our experiences with others is part of what makes life so powerful, meaningful, and worth living.
We all need to experience from others the listening and identifying embrace that says, “Yes, I have dreams too. I have struggles too. I’ve made mistakes too. I can hear you. And I’m listening.”
It’s when this happens that we feel known and accepted for who we are.
And we are given permission to no longer hide and pretend anymore.
While there was a time in my life when hiding and pretending was my practice, I’m making great gains now to live more honestly and openly with others. I don’t do this perfectly. I’m still “in process” as the saying goes.
But I continue to discover that life is too short to pretend and remain disconnected anymore.
If you find yourself connected more than ever, but still lonely, maybe it’s time to take some steps, even if minor, on the path of authenticity.
Open up a little more. Let yourself be known.