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)