Are you struggling to connect with the people in your life? Sometimes things like differences, disagreements, misunderstandings, or distractions stand in the way of creating connections with the people that we love.
Theology of The Body reminds us that we were created for relationship and that the most important things we can spend our time and energy on is cultivating as much closeness as we can in all the relationships we participate in. People tend to think that “building the kingdom of God” involves doing “big things” for Jesus. Doing projects. Volunteering at the parish. Getting involved. Those things can be important, but the primary way we’re called to build God’s kingdom is by working to heal the damage that sin has done or wants to do to our relationships. The kingdom of God is discovered in the way we connect heart to heart and soul to soul.
We are destined to spend eternity in intimate union with God and the communion of saints. Doing the work we need to do in this life to make our relationships whole and holy helps to prepare us for that heavenly communion. It’s true that there are some relationships that can’t or won’t be healed or fully realized this side of heaven, but the more we focus our energy on at least attempting to cultivate as much closeness, intimacy, openness, and love as we can with the people in our lives the more we are preparing ourselves to participate in the ultimate union of heaven.
Here are three ways to cultivate connection in your relationships:
Are you struggling with difficult relationships in your life?
1. Develop a Relationship Mindset–We are all too busy and most of us tend to focus, primarily, on “getting things done.” It is certainly important to do good work and accomplish the important tasks that are set before us, but we have to resist the worldly temptation to put things before people–including projects and chores. One of the most important tasks of living an authentically Christian life is cultivating a relationship mindset. That means, as you go about your day, asking yourself two questions. First, “What small things could I do in this moment to close whatever gap exists between me and the people in my life?” And second, “How can I approach the tasks I need to complete today in a way that lets me be as close as possible to the people I care about?” These two questions allow us to make continuous micro-efforts to keep people close and fight the temptation to value accomplishments and projects over intimacy and people. Cultivating connection doesn’t mean that you necessarily have any more time than anyone else does. It just means that you keep the relationships you have and the people you love in the forefront of your mind instead of in the back corners.
2. Make Small Steps–We have a tendency to think, “I can’t wait to get this big chunk of time to connect with the important people in my life. Things will be great then.” We live for date night, or vacation, or the weekend trip when we’ll get to “really connect.” But we ignore our relationships until then. Cultivating connection isn’t done in big gulps. It’s made of a million little steps. Cultivating connection involves sending those little “I’m thinking of you” texts through the day. Calling just to check in. Making time in the middle of a busy day to do that thing that makes a loved one’s life a little easier or more pleasant or makes them feel cherished. If you want to be closer to someone you care about, challenge yourself everyday to do something that keeps you close or draws you a little bit closer. Making small relationship steps everyday is a much more effective way to cultivate closeness than hoping to cover the same relationship ground through occasional giant leaps.
3. Remember “A Stitch in Time…”–There is an old proverb that says, “a stitch in time saves nine.” That means “solve little problems before they become big problems.” This is a great rule for cultivating closeness in relationships. Nothing creates more barriers to intimacy than resentment, suspicion, and estrangement caused by the piling up of unresolved problems or misunderstandings. Remember what St Gregory the Great said, “Thoughts seethe all the more when corralled by the violent guard of an indiscreet silence.” When it comes to relationships, make sure to clarify misunderstandings before they become problems and resolve problems before they become crises. The more you commit to regular relationship maintenance, the closer and more rewarding your connections will be.
For more resources on cultivating connection, check out our books, videos, and services at CatholicCounselors.com!