I've had the amazing privilege of knowing some fantastic older folks over the course of my life. Some of my favorite memories are having spent time with wise, old, wrinkled individuals and chatting. You know what the common denominator in most of their stories they tell is? Relationships. No matter how old or how young you might be, it's the relational ties that we have that grant us a portion of our identity. Here are three key things I'm learning about relational ties:
1. All relationships shape us. Whether it's a positive interaction with a teacher from your Grade 1 class, or a frightful first date experience...all relationships shape us. We are formed, reformed, dented and glued by the relational connections we develop with others...even if these connections are limited and brief. Picture someone you admire in your mind. How are you connected to them? The social business network Linked In defines these types of connections as first, second or third type connections. A first connection is an immediate interaction with an individual. A second connection is a "friend of a friend" type of scenario, and so on and so on. Regardless of how well or how little you know another person, every single interaction leaves an impression. I shudder to think how some of the people I've interacted with over my lifetime have been affected by me, but I also smile when I think of other people who may have had a more positive interaction with me.
2. We don't like having real connections. Even though we are defined my our relational connections, we are afraid of developing a real connection. We are so starved for attention or connection, that we are willing to embrace a placebo or plastic connection instead of risking these synthetic connections for something of real substance. It's easier to cope with rejection when some doesn't like the real us...so we create fake connections out of fear and a desire to protect ourselves. The funny thing is that these fake connections only enhance our insatiable appetite for authenticity...so we end up creating an internal monster that will never be satisfied by our attempts to live in shallow waters relationally instead of a deep ocean of connection.
3. We mimic what we know and see. If we've been marred positively or negatively by a relationship, we mimic this behavior. It takes extreme courage to rise above negativity, swim up stream and reject corporate compliance. If you don't have a great relational role model in your life, find one...start learning from them and begin mimicking their posture instead of the negative expressions of relational connections that might seem more natural to us.
We are defined by our relational ties. They aren't something we wear, but they are something we live. What do your relational ties say about you?