Getting together for coffee or tea or almost any kind of connection with friends is something most of us enjoy. Have you ever been in a season or noticed that sometimes there can be too much time doing those things in your calendar and other times not enough? Little wonder at that since relationships are a vital part of our lives at every season and we can be restless or dissatisfied when there is a lack of balance no matter what our personality or preference.
“Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, relationships are an important part of a well-rested life. Skip too many meals and your stomach will start growling. Just as the body hungers, your soul also hungers for connection. Loneliness is the soul’s plea to feed your need for social rest.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
One of the consequences of the worldwide pandemic has been more isolation and loneliness as well as a growing number of people experiencing depression and anxiety because of being cut off from usual times with family and friends. That was even worse for those who were ill and even in hospitals and unable to have those they love around them for comfort and encouragement. Every aspect of our relational selves experienced impact.
“You are made for three kinds of relationships: with others, with yourself, and with God.”Dr. Gary Smalley
We all know good relationships take work, intentionality, authenticity, good communication, and more. We know those relationships that refresh us and those that leave us feeling drained or empty after coffee. How reciprocal and authentic each person can be will have a great impact on how much we risk sharing of ourselves as well as invest in listening to the other person.
We will have many levels of relationship but if we are fortunate, there will be one or two persons we will never miss having a coffee date with or sharing what we are wrestling with. These are the ones who listen with their hearts, hold us accountable to our values and principles, pray for us without being asked, and know us so well they sense when something is going on even if we haven’t said. They pursue our hearts, not just the details of what we are doing or thinking about.
I think they are really special gifts from the Lord, and I sometimes wonder if those 3 disciples Jesus hung out with the most were like that with Him. Perhaps they heard differently even though they were all faltering at times and Peter often put his foot in his mouth.
These persons who are “heart listeners” are ones we should never take for granted; they are precious indeed.
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith identifies 6 things that suggest we have social rest deficits:
1. Feeling alone in the world
2. Feeling detached from family and friends
3. Attraction to people who mistreat you or are abusive toward you
4. Difficulty in maintaining close relationships or making friends
5. Isolating yourself from others
6. Preferring online relationships over face-to-face relationships
“Social rest is when we find comfort in our relationships and social interactions. It is the ability to find solace in another.
Relationships are where we make deposits when we are full and withdraw from when we feel empty.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
Some of us have the mistaken idea what we need is a lot more time alone than we often do. Yes, we need time alone with the Lord and with ourselves, but if we are craving too much time alone perhaps it’s because the quality of our relationships is not replenishing and refreshing us when that is something we really need. We can be tempted to stop pursuing relationships if we are not as healthy or have been wounded in past relationships. Since relationships are hard work, we think we will just give up on them rather than risk learning what a safe relationship looks like and how to be that for someone else.
Sometimes we look for relationships to nourish us without much thought about how we will also seek to nourish others as well. We must never forget that relationships are meant to be reciprocal and not just a means to fulfill our own needs.
“We often look down on fake people; however, we at times exhibit similar behavior. We become hypocritical in how we view authenticity in relationships, demanding it from others while refusing to fully participate ourselves. Social rest requires a willingness to deal with our relationship hurdles. It requires us to confront our reactions to the judgment of others, our feelings of rejection, and our fears about fitting in. In doing so, we secure relationships that give us grace to confront our doubts, speak our truth, and be authentic.
Social rest is about making space for those relationships that revive you. When you are with a friend you feel comfortable being around who makes you feel as if you could tell them anything, you’re experiencing social rest. These social rest relationships make you feel valued and take your concerns seriously.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
Relationships are both a gift and a choice. If we are without relationships of any kind, then perhaps we need to first seek the Lord about what has caused us to distance ourselves from others and not trust Him to discern those He would grant us to share our journeys. If we have failed to pay attention to those relationships we do have, this is a good time to seek the Lord about how to be a better friend, one who can provide social rest for others as well as receive it.
Research offers some significant findings about the importance of strong relationships:
“Studies show that people with strong relationships live longer, cope with stress better, and are overall healthier and happier. One study of over 300,000 people found a lack of strong relationships increased risk of premature death from all causes by 50 percent. This mortality risk is greater than that caused by obesity and similar to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes a day. Your social support system does more than just help you weather life’s storms; it lengthens the number of your days.” Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
8 thoughts on “Too Much or Too Little”
So much food for thought here! I appreciate all reminders that God is relational–that fact has made the biggest difference in my life! And now I think I need to get Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book.
Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!
Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book is excellent and one o savor page-by-page I have determined.
Thanks for featuring me! Always enjoy visiting your page and linkup!💕
I am one who does not mind being alone or at home. The close relationships I have bring a balance to my alone time, and for those I am most grateful. You have made such a wise point – “Relationships are both a gift and a choice.” May I accept the gift of relationships which He brings into my life. Thank you, Pam, for sharing your insights and wisdom!
The quality and depth of our relationships are the things in my own life that matter most. Though I am an extrovert (milder level), I was so involved with so many things and ministry areas prior to retirement that I really treasure more time in our home and not going all the time. Thanks for your encouragement 💕
I tend to enjoy time alone a bit more than the average person but have certainly noticed feeling a lightness after spending time with others too. I definitely think it’s important to find that balance.
Balance in every area of our lives seems to need a watchful eye was it can start out on the right track and then something happens and we start curving off of it and can have a hard time regaining things.😊
As an introvert, I’ve not minded having more time at home during the pandemic. But it’s also caused me to realize how much I do need to be around people!, more than I realized. Especially those “heart listeners.” Thanks for this reminder to value all relationships, Pam.
Good observations, Lisa. My husband is an introvert but he makes certain that he connects each week with a group of guys that are closest to him. It’s clear to us both after more than 25 years of counseling that no matter the personality type, God is relational and if we are to follow his lead then we will be a pursuer of relationships within healthy balance in our lives.💕