Edward Hallowell writes that for most people the two most powerful experiences in life are achieving and connecting. Most of what grabs our attention and commands our energy falls under these two categories.
Connecting has to do with our relational world things like falling in love, forming great friendships, being cared for when we are sick, or receiving words of deep affection from parents.
Achieving has to do with our accomplishments winning contests, pursuing career success, or realizing a difficult goal.
Hallowell points out that our society is increasingly devoted to, obsessed with, and enslaved by achieving, and increasingly bankrupt and impoverished when it comes to connecting.
Achieving is not a bad thing when its done in the right way and for the right reasons. But it is no substitute for connecting. In fact, if it is to be done right, it must honor community. The only really significant achievements are those that enrich the life of community.
So it is ironic that achievement for its own sake has become a kind of idol in our society. I have never known anyone who failed at relationships who was isolated, lonely, unconnected, had no deep friendships yet had a meaningful and joy-filled life. Not a single person. The twentieth century was littered with people who achieved great things but never connected. People who accumulated vast amounts of wealth, fame, or power but never acquired an open heart. People who had a Rolodex of contacts but not a single friend. Every one of them died with bitter regrets. Every one.
Conversely, I have never known anyone who succeeded at relationships who cultivated great friendships, who was devoted to their family, who mastered the art of giving and receiving love yet had a bad life.
No matter how little money we have, no matter what rung we occupy on anybodys corporate ladder of success, in the end what everybody discovers is that what matters is other people. Human beings who give themselves to relational greatness who have friends they laugh with, cry with, learn with, fight with, dance with, live and love and grow old and die with these are the human beings who lead magnificent lives.
When they die, not one of them regrets having devoted themselves to people, their friends, their neighbors, their children, their family. Not one.[i]
Therefore, in order for any of us to learn the seemingly lost art of connecting, there are a few things we must endeavor to develop in our inter-personal lives. Honest Conversations is a tool that will help us begin this process. One of the first places we, the ones having honest conversations, must begin with is our self.
[i] John Ortberg, Everybodys Normal Till You Get to Know Them, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 30-31.