What To Do Most

Posted: September 21, 2009 in love
Tags: , , ,

happy personThe People Priority

Life is a priority making event. We eat; we shop; we work; we eat. We sleep; we make things, we break things, we fix things, we eat things.  We surf the internet, we exercise, we watch TV; we eat while watching TV; we eat after we watch TV. There is a pattern. Certain things stand out.

When it comes to priorities, I recommend eating, often, all day, and half the night, in your sleep. I ate in the shower recently. Eating is my priority, but eating is not the main thing.

People are. People are the soul’s food. I recommend three to four large servings of small to medium sized people per day.

Nothing on earth is more nourishing to your psyche than small people,  friends,  family, grandchildren, your people. Other things — cars, houses, TVs are a mere sugar coating on life. People are protein.

Your career accomplishments, will be forgotten. Too much food will make you fat, but family and friends and grandparents and children and new acquaintances — they are the sweet spot, the core, the elixir of good living.

Think Jesus. He owned nothing, but relationships, and his life was replete with meaning! Want to thrive? Socialize. Drive fast, toward people. Put your social pedal to the floor. Shift into relational fifth gear, motor toward people at top speed.

 “Love your neighbor.” It’s top priority.

 There are several simple ways to do this. 

Take risks.

If you are invited to a party, go. Jesus did his first miracle at a party. If you are never get invited to parties, take a class at the community college; they often end with a party. My wife and I took a dance class  at the college.  It was like constant party; every night I danced with a different girl, and stepped on her toes. It was a risk; it was fun; it was scary. I’m glad I did it. I won’t do it again.

But you don’t have to go to a party or take a class to risk socially, to have the adventure of new relationship. Church works. Go often. Join a group there. It is the best way to get deeper with people. Jesus’s closest followers joined his group. You need homies, groupies, buddies, cronies, confidantes, side kicks.

I remember my first small group experience at a church I was terrified. I was afraid to say anything in outloud in the group. When I did risk and speak, I trembled and my heart pounded. I was so shy. It was painful. I’ve gotten over that. How? I’ve been a small group continuously for the last 30 years. Just do it, until in feels natural!

All of ature knows to collect. Flies swarm, fish school, sheep flock. The crows group in a murder, the cobras in a quiver, the seals form a harem. What about you? Who is in your quiver? Who is in your murder? Who makes up your harem? Well, you might not do the harem thing.

Spiritually seeking people have always grouped. Moses left his isolation in the peaceful desert to join his people in Egypt. Ruth left her people to join her mother-in-laws people in Palestine. Peter left his fishing buddies to be a part of Jesus’ small group. 

Follow suite. Don’t isolate, don’t cocoon or hide. Get out of the house. Find  your people.

Samoans make good football players. Think Jr. Seau.  In the NFL he has had over 1,500 career tackles. Samoans have a warrior tradition. So do Christian.  Our Christian ancestors are Joshua, David, Paul. Live like them. Capture your people.

Reveal yourself

Once you are with people, to really be with them you must reveal who you are. Create safe space. Safe space is space where we are all free to be imperfect, where we give people our permission to be imperfect too.

Jesus created safe space everywhere he went. There was a  woman caught in adultery.  Religious people wanted to stone her. Jesus said to them “He who is without sin, throw the first stone.”

Jesus protected her by getting everyone there to admit that they weren’t perfect. The secret to good relating is that there are no secrets. Safety exists in the truth that wea are all failures.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth he is talking about is the truth that we aren’t perfect, and that we need him to help  us be free, to admit that, to be open to be right and good.

To live in truth, I engage in intentional openess. I often share with people something imperfect about myself. It’s easy. There are so many things to choose from.

I once shot my big brother, with a BB gun. I once totaled my car. I am an addict. Addicted, to what? To every food ever grown, cut, cooked, fried, broiled, boiled or burned, but especially to cold cereal.  While laughing, I once snorted super sugar crisps. I like to inhale — my cereal.

Want to thrive in relationships. Tell on yourself. It makes people laugh, or cry, for you. It connects you. It’s liberating to be honest. It opens up the conversation to revelations of criminal activity and other juicy topics. Baptize your conversations with honesty. You’ll draw out interesting confessions.

Some people won’t go to church. Why? They think they have to act holy. If only they knew! I tell them. Come to my church. You’ll meet so many people who are more messed up than you that it will make you feel great about yourself.

Be human. Jesus was, fully God, fully man. If you are free to be what you are, other people will be free to be who  they are and always will be — gloriously and imperfectly and shockingly,  human.

Be stingy — with criticism

Jesus was so different from the other religious people of his day. They were critical of other people, full of rules, judgments. That is so unattractive, so antisocial.

Jesus went around accepting people, lepers, beggars, prostitutes, tax collectors.

Some Christians go around doing the opposite, expressing judgment and intolerance. They are intolerant of falling moral standards, of political liberals or conservatives, of other denominations, of other religions, of slipping family values, of people who don’t believe in miracles. But is that an effective strategy to draw people to Jesus? Is it like Jesus?

Come join us and you can be judgmental and angry like us!

Be cautious with criticism. Jesus primarily defined his followers by what they were for, not what they were against. We are for people, not against them. We are for forgiveness. We are for mercy. Samuel Johnson said, “God doesn’t judge a man until his life is over. Why should I?” We are for compassion. We are for peace.

William James said that the “deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” James used the word, “craving.” Meet the craving. Tell people good things about themselves.

To thrive relationally you must be winsomely positive.

Express warmth.

Jesus was always touching the people he healed. Babies that are regularly touched gain weight faster, develop stronger immune systems, crawl and walk sooner, sleep more soundly and cry less than babies deprived of close physical contact.

Touch the people you love, hug them, pre-hug them, re-hug them, post-hug them, kiss them. Jesus touched the blind man’s eyes, he brought the children near; he put his hands on people he healed.

Affirm people. People are 50% more likely to feel close to family members who frequently express affection than to those who rarely do so. Tell people, “I love you.” 

When the preschoolers I know see me, they run and hug my leg. They tell me they love me. They adore me, and aren’t afraid to show it. We would do well not to lose such enthusiasm for people.

Why are we reluctant to tell people we care about them?  Are we afraid it will be misinterpreted as manipulative, as weak, as sexual? Well, if the last is an issue for you, be careful, but still find words or actions to glow with holy warmth.

Express warmth. It creates a magnetic attraction, what Rollo May calls a “field of emotion.”

Go after it. It’s the priority. It’s people. To love them, take risks, reveal yourself, be stingy with criticism, glow with social warmth.

Remember Philippians 4:13.  “I can do everything in him who gives me strength.”

Draw energy, inspiration, a field of warm emotion, from Jesus. He made people his top priority; he was warm, honest, and positive.  If you follow him, he lives in you, he speaks through you. He connects through you.

You might say, “It doesn’t feel natural.” Love? Of course not, it’s of God, it’s supernatural.

  1. laurelhasper says:

    this is just what i needed to hear. thanks for your words of wisdom. i’m going to go out and love and relate to the people at plnu today… to “glow with social warmth” (darn that’s a good line). thanks for the encouragement!

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