Cultivating Openness

If I’m a non-American I’m certainly noticing a lot of division within the American people. Close mindedness is at a premium where fellow American citizens are unable to hold a simple political, religious, or moral conversation for risk of offending the other party, or much worse.  How is this possible? You and I have come a long way and are actually moving towards an egalitarian society and, on much larger scale, global value system. I want to believe the latter much more than the former, but if you and I are honest with what state of dysfunction the United States is currently in, we must acknowledge the former with utmost clarity. At this point our fellow citizens will not change based on an argument; people are won by non-violent conversations, initiated by you and I, geared towards a desire to better understand who they are. Here are a few ways we can be more open minded conversationalists motivated by greater peace and understanding.

  1. Listen. Be active in your listening even if you may not agree with them. Tell them you hear what they are saying and be ready to summarize the main points of their side of the discussion. Nod when they say something key; afford them the same open body language you would want for yourself.
  2. Determine what your hardline values are. What are you willing to defend until your last breath? This creates less room for offense to take place and, mentally, we can become more open towards the issues we determine to be less “hardline”. It’s an extreme precaution to take, but pregaming our beliefs allow us to further define what our “no budge” issues are and, surprisingly, helps us realize we should be a lot more open about. If you have several dozen “no budge” issues it’s time to take a look in the mirror and ask in what ways you can be more open. Period.    
  3. Generate common ground and resolute compromise, not tolerance. Bill Hybels of the long standing Willow Creek church claims tolerance is for cowards. The word tolerance begets a begrudging attitude of unwilling acceptance at the cost of obligation. Tolerance is the same attitude many white people had in Alabama when the Jim Crow laws were abolished. On paper racism and discrimination are somewhat gone, but tolerance, an obligatory attitude of begrudging acceptance, is what has kept racism alive to this day.

 

Friends we need peace. There is too much hate in this world simply to walk away agreeing to disagree. May our goal in conversation always be to foster greater mutual understanding; may we aggressively lean in and actively listen to those that share different beliefs from our own. If we can make proactive conversation a habit we might just be able to close the enormous racial, political, and religious gaps we see today. Today’s actions fuel tomorrow’s outcome.  

Advertisements

Cacophonous Relationships and Why You Need at Least One of Them

In my very brief stint with classical music I picked up the word cacophony, among others. My teacher must have been a real “tough love” kind of guy because he would describe my piano playing as cacophonous most of the time I attempted to play a new song; in short my piano playing must have sounded pretty bad for him to use an adjective connoted to be discordant, inconsistent, and unpleasant. For anyone that knows me you’ll probably chuckle because I’m not a very musical guy; however, you would also know I enjoy learning new concepts, such as cacophony, and applying them to relatively unrelated fields, namely relationships.

 

There are certainly many components that help define and give life to a phenomenal relationship. Some will point to natural chemistry, physical proximity, or qualities such as perseverance. Others will say great relationships are spontaneously found and there is no such strategy to orchestrating a healthy friendship. Nonetheless it’s important to acknowledge many philosophies exist to give structure and guidelines for how you and I ought to form our relationships today.

Strangely enough, cacophony, at it’s core, applies to the way in which we create thriving relationships. It’s the discordance or disagreement in our interpersonal interactions that  exposes us for who we are, both good and bad, and ultimately compels us towards resolution.

 

Often times we feel gutted and exposed in any experience of tension. Our levels of selfishness and narcissism decrease as we are forced to acknowledge the person we see in the mirror, the good, bad, and everything in between. As a result both our great and decrepit qualities lie vulnerably on the table for the person we are in conflict with to see. Most of the time one of two choices exist at this point in the conflict timeline. Our first most natural reaction is to simply judge the person sitting across from us and leave the conflict there; we tend to opt to agree to disagree, but inside we leave feeling dissatisfied, unresolved, and disgusted that we ever had to interact with the person in the first place. Our second alternative brings us to a more difficult path, but, in the long term, bears greater joy and satisfaction. We can choose to explicitly acknowledge what the person across from us has done well while also acknowledging our own brokenness and need for growth in the area being addressed. If the other person can reciprocate on some level, true, formative resolution has a green light to begin to take place.

 

As the process of resolution progresses it’s important to be able to step back and observe what exactly moments of conflict are doing to and for us. Tension is simply not exposing us for our terrible qualities and solving issues; on a holistic level we are becoming more developed individuals who are more empathetic, self-aware, and selfless. As we leave the battle room of conflict our capacity for our own brokenness, paired with other people’s brokenness, grows and we begin to have greater patience and understanding for anyone that might cross our paths.

Conflict is almost never fun, but it can become one of the greatest catalysts for growth in you and I’s relationships whether it’s a family member, close friend, or even co-worker. It is in these moments of conflict we find our authentic selves, good and bad, and gain the opportunity to move in a direction of greater growth and self-awareness for the sake of the people we love most. We cannot always choose how we feel, but we can always make a choice to move in a direction that brings mutual peace and understanding between us and whoever we find ourselves in conflict with.

How to Embrace Discomfort When it’s not Convenient

Millenials, one of our biggest critiques of our generation is our perceived entitlement. Are some of us narcissistic, entitled folk? Yes. Do all of us belong in that same category? No. Everyday you and I have a choice to engage the world around us, namely our relationships and work. Inevitably we tend to deal with difficulties within the realm of relationships and work because they involve people and, well, people are pretty messy. Here are a few tips to embrace the discomfort difficulty tends to throw our way and come out on top:

  1. Acknowledge What You Feel: Let’s face it; we are human, humans have feelings, and feelings matter. Often times we can be driven too often by doing the “right thing”; we aren’t robots and the world will never be perfect! In moments of discomfort it’s important we acknowledge our emotional disposition.
  2. Then Do the Right Thing: As you and I acknowledge our feelings, we can be reminded we also can choose to respond in a proactive and brilliant manner, despite how we might feel. The moments where we fall captive to difficulty can often feel like a physical shortcoming, but often it is our mental capacity, or lack thereof, to overcome our emotional dispositions that becomes the culprit for our dysfunction.
  3. Sometimes, take the “L”: Friends, there are moments where life beats us down and we simply need to take a little siesta. Life is tough; however, for every one of the tough moments we can look forward to a victory tomorrow. We cannot be driven by what is “right” 100% of the time so feel free to take moments of extended rest and journey to a place where you can begin to function once again.

The mental game of responding to difficult situations has it’s moments. There are certainly easy circumstances where responding to life is a natural, fluid movement of habit; there are other times where life comes out of left field and we feel beaten down, exposed, and hopeless. There isn’t a manual when it comes to this stuff, but we can see what is in front of us, respond, and trudge forward. Carry on my friends.

Your Small Talk has Big Value

One narrative you and I find ringing throughout our movies, books, and social media is the idea of deep conversation and it’s immense relevance to relationships today. If you and I are honest we have countlessly gauged a person’s relational value by observing how effectively they can hold a “deep conversation” and making an evaluation from there. Often we perform the social chore of small talk about the weather or what we do for work and jump straight to the beliefs we hold most dearly to ourselves. The conversations you and I have begun to covet are usually characterized by resonating political, cultural, or spiritual sentiment. It’s this same resonating sentiment that makes us feel known to the deeper depths of our core values and beliefs.  Inherently, you and I crave value; moreover, we desire intimate connection with other human beings and it’s because of these desires we go as deep as we do.

 

Admittedly, small talk can very much feel like a social chore. It’s boring and can feel as if very little progress is being made within the relationship; when too much small talk occurs we end up feeling unknown and irrelevant to the person in front of us. Ultimately, if the conversation isn’t on pace to satisfy our needs the inherent desire for connection takes us away from the person we aren’t “connecting” with and to the next prospect; consequently the cycle of endlessly seeking “deep conversation” continues until we find someone who makes us feel a little more known than the last.

 

Deep conversations that make us feel known, validated, and valued are crucial to any successful relationship; it’s these same conversations that propel us into greater self awareness and an empathy for other people’s dispositions. However, millenials, I think our expeditions for deep conversation are damaging our ability to identify relational promise in the person across from us. Our litmus test for determining whether or not someone as a viable friend worthy of our time has become far too archaic to the point of dysfunction.

 

So I appeal to you, millenials. In you and I’s fascination for the quick and easy, entitlement, and all the other stuff previous generations seem to label us with, here are four reasons why small talk might be the one thing we ought to value more in our determining factors for great relationships.

  1. Small talk is a Building Block for Connection: We’ve heard it a million times. Everyone has to start somewhere. In serendipitous fashion you and I will find certain individuals who can jump straight to the conversations of deep resonance and bliss; these are amazing opportunities and we should absolutely take advantage of these moments. However, I think it would be a mistake to expect the same deep conversation turnover, much less identify these certain individuals as the critical mass of everyday relational prospects. Small talk, perhaps to you and I’s dismay, sets a basic foundation for later conversations to be built off of and hopefully makes way for deeper topics to emerge in the conversation.
  2. Small Talk is a Goldmine for the “Spark”: As you and I engage in small talk something rather spectacular happens. It allows us to slowly and safely share our values without creating an uncomfortable expectation for the person across from us to perform. The person across from us may not be as quick to recognize when a conversation is going deeper, but as small talk carries on it becomes a gracious vehicle for them to identify where we are at personally and equip them to chime in; as recognition takes place the epic “spark” in relationships we know so well effortlessly enters the conversation.
  3. Small Talk Conveys Interest: One fact we often forget is the initial reason for which we engage in small talk. Yes, it is absolutely a social norm to perform the duty of small talk, but before identifying small talk as simply a social norm we can be reminded the person across from us is likely interested in having a conversation and likewise desires it to go as deep, if not deeper than we do.
  4. Small Talk is an Indicator for Value: Let’s be straight. If the person across from either you or I sticks around for a significant amount of time displaying the ability to talk about the weather, what is done for work, or favorite past times then we may have a winner on our hands. Either they are choosing to engage in what some may deep boorish conversation or there is a natural flow of chemistry with disregard for the content of conversation. Either of those choices indicates interest and perhaps even a deeper propensity for commitment.

 

Small talk, like many other things in life, are all about the way in which you and I view and utilize them. It’s our perspective that drives the way in which we navigate our relationships and, for the sake of this article, the nature in which we have conversation with others. Rather than viewing small talk as a social drawl there might be merit in viewing small talk as an ability. It’s often the aforementioned cues we completely forget because you and I are so obsessed with our own specific litmus test for relationships. But if we can simply take a step back and recalibrate the way in which we identify promising relationships we may find a little bit more fulfillment in our interactions with our fellow human beings.

 

Two Minute Tuesday: Privilege, What it Is, and Why it Matters

As it stands our world certainly is experiencing an appalling amount of hatred. The recent acts of bigotry in Charlottesville, VA have been horrid to watch as white nationalists protested for a “cleansed America”, free of minorities. There are many reasons why division rules in this nation: our nation’s history, misunderstanding, and pride, just to name a few.

As a minority and, more importantly, a human being I do not claim to know the answers, but certainly believe in the power of conversation. Can we have one right now? Can you and I begin to unpack our beliefs, little by little, in the hopes we would grow in empathy for one another’s background, culture, and lifestyle?

I want to share with you, from my eyes, what I consider to be a difficult topic, but crucial to our conversations of unity: the idea of privilege. Perhaps today you and I can speak truth in a way that leads us to greater peace and understanding. Here’s quick rundown of privilege, as illustrated in our society:

    1. What it is: consistently defined as a “right, benefit, or immunity that are predominantly unearned, but widely unaware of” by an individual. Many use the example of how a fish does not necessarily know it is swimming in water; it just does. Privilege can be our race, nationality, wealth, or a combination of all the above.
    2. So What: Privilege, whether intended or not, usually results in an inequality of some sort. What are the ways you and I can take a step back and reexamine our “privilege”? True equality can be achieved when the privileged make the uncomfortable move to reach out and equip the underprivileged.

 

 

Inequality is not an issue solved overnight, much less by an article touted to be read in two minutes. Conversations, however, help solve inequality and injustice; hopefully a conversation was had today and will continue to transpire between you and I.

Maranatha. 

5 Signs You’ve Found a Great Friend

Do you ever listen to a speaker, drift off, but hear one profound idea from their talk it makes you wish you had listened the whole time? I was listening to a sociologist speaking about the correlation between time and the amount of people we meet on average in a lifetime. I was dozing off until he mentioned a profound observation: in a case study of 25 young adults like you and I, every single person reported a consistent decreased interest or drive in meeting new people the older they grew.

This got me thinking.

For many reasons the observation made by the sociologist appears to be accurate. We get busy with work and tired from the long day. Some of us move to new cities; the idea of a creating a new network of friends feels exhausting. We then meet coworkers who introduce us to their friends or use app after app, even dating ones, to “meet people”, but in the end we usually end up even more exhausted from the entire process. We become exhausted because we end up comparing the close intimacy we’ve experienced with our friends from college or childhood with the people we just spent three hours chugging down drinks with, and being sorely disappointed after the first few meetups. In other cases certain values aren’t shared or assumed societal norms are not viewed in the same light and we feel a significant disconnect. As a result, we become massively disillusioned with our current circumstances and opt to simply stay in touch with the friends we already have made and carry on with our stage of life. We begin to lose the ability to discern what exactly excites us about being in relationship with people. At the end of the day you and I still desire to, in a sense, “do life with people” who understand us and where we come from, it’s only natural we would want such a reality for ourselves.

 

As we venture into the post college world here are five signs you’ve found a good friend and can hopefully make meeting new friends, identifying their immense value, and growing the relationship a bit easier:

  • There is a mutual feeling of brilliance: in any relationship people like to refer to this mutual brilliance as “chemistry”. The beauty of finding great friends is that this “chemistry”, spark, or whatever you want to call it inspires us to discover more about the person across from us and seek to develop the friendship
  • They possess a unique combination of the ability to support you, but call you out on your “B.S.”: acquaintances, and even “good” friends, will move to only offer words of support in our most vulnerable moments. Great friends worth keeping around not only hold us up when we’re down, but shoot us down when we are getting too high on our horse.
  • A seamless, yet constant exchange of leadership occurs frequently: in great friendships ego tends to dissipate. The friends we ought to pursue are comfortable enough to discern whether to take more initiative or default to you in certain situations; this can be seen when it comes to any issue whether it’s what restaurant to eat at or where to go on a Friday night.
  • They’re intentional; they ask great questions and move to encourage you: great friends simply know how to ask intentional questions that go beyond the superficial front you and I know so well. These questions inquire deep enough to the point of making us feel known, but not intimate enough to make us feel too vulnerable.
  • Openness exists between you two: Perhaps the final sign a friend might show to indicate their promising friendship is a transparent openness. When great friends get together transparency takes an underlying precedent, but doesn’t become the center of attention. In other words, you aren’t spending your time simply spilling your guts, but rather, moving towards resolution for whatever issue(s) you may be having.

The tendency in mundane or difficult situations is to resort to one stop shop methods and run short in patience; the latter becomes an even greater temptation in developing relationships. As we seek phenomenal, life giving relationships in a new stage of life we can choose to trust in the process and take time to see the community in front of us grow before our very eyes. The five signs listed are simply the top five ways in which I personally identify relationships, but there are different indicators for each of us. We all have unique tendencies and brilliant ways in which we see life, relationships, and everything in between. Perhaps this conversation can be a catalyst for your next season of life.

Two-Minute Tuesday: How to be Intentional With Our Friends [Today, Right Now]

As you and I seek to grow our relationships one of the ways we can do so is by being intentional with how we seek our friends out. At first glance the word “intentional” is rather intuitive, but something you and I very much lack in the foundation of our relationships; on a day to day basis it’s a behavior we forget because we assume to practice intentionality naturally. So for our two-minute read Tuesday here are perhaps a few points that might bring life to our relationships and help make us a bit more “intentional”:

  • Know the Five Love Languages (in no specific order): Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time. Cheesy, but nonetheless effective. There are other ways, but these are compiled into a simple, easy to understand list. (For more clarification on what the love languages are, check this link out.)
  • Find the love language you think the person most enjoys and then do it. Look for some sort of positive reaction: a smile, indicative body language, increased vulnerability in their sharing of conversation, and go from there.
  • Grab 30 minutes and ask open-ended questions using these opening words: Who, What, Why, Where, When, or How. (Ex: What do you feel excites you most in life? How do you enjoy your work and why?) Grab a quick coffee. It doesn’t need to be deep or gut-wrenching, but a simple time to be authentic and walk alongside one another.
  • Listen and Continue to Build Foundation: The Key Word is listen: remember what was said by the person across from you the best you can and reference back to what you heard next time you sit down together.

At the end of the day the above points are simply a few methods in which we can be intentional in developing our relationships; these are not the ways to necessarily grow with people, but certainly options in which we can choose from.

Introducing, Two-Minute Tuesdays + More

These days reading news, articles, or any other medium of information comes in all shapes and forms. You and I see it every day on our newsfeed via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc…Some of us enjoy reading long research articles with a clean five point thesis plus supporting points and, for others, it just takes a simple tweet to satiate our curiosity bug for the day.

This dichotomy got me thinking and I started to ask the question, “how can I add value to my network without giving off the feeling of tackiness or unexplained opinion?”. So I started brainstorming with a few of my friends and we came up with this idea of a “two-minute read”. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but maybe it can be an improvement on the unsubstantiated, over opinionated tweet and a tasty summary of those long research articles.

Better yet, we wanted to add some wonderful consonance to your day and call it “Two-Minute Tuesdays”. Every Tuesday at 10:00AM, starting tomorrow, you can look forward to a two-minute read with a introduction explaining the given topic’s context, a meaty bullet point body of explanation, and a denouement of closing statement reiterating the entire read.

As a closing note/context: I’ve recently finished a summer business internship and will look forward to writing on a weekly basis; first a Two-Minute Tuesday blurb as well as a more extensive article later in the week. Topics will range from relationships, minority perspective, millenialism, young Christian living, and a few other topics. The nature of the articles, as always, is a posture to learn and gain deeper understanding from the world around you and I.

As I write, I acknowledge I am not a Bible scholar or expert voice in any one of the topics I engage in dialogue with; I am grateful for your engagement in my writing and hope to begin conversations towards further clarity, gratitude, and greater understanding between you, I, and the rest of the world. Maranatha, Kurios Iesous

The 6 Friends Everybody Needs: Final Part: The Pickup Where You Left Off Friend

As millenials the idea of change is nothing new. We blow through high school, discover ourselves throughout college, and swim through the deep waters of an entry level career. You and I have realized change is an inevitable reality waiting to happen. However, we still love to fight it. Why leave the safety of security in pursuit of the unknown? For others, it’s a thrill to venture into such depth.

Sooner or later you and I realize our illusion of control is only as surreal as the assurance we have regarding change, simply a delusion that we are not in the driver’s seat. Life goes forward whether we fancy its movements or not.

This is where the “pick up where you left off” friend enters.

Life has a funny way of wrecking most relationships with the bullet of distance, but the “pick up where you left off” friend becomes the exception. Years later life feels as if not a day has gone by and everything, the memories, proximity, and jokes, all seem to be in tact.

Here are three reasons why having a “pick up where you left off friend” is a gift and may be something we could learn from:

  1. They are a reminder of life’s simple joy: I know this sounds bad, but wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to put out the immense energy it takes to maintain your current long distance relationships? That’s what a relationship with the pickup where you left off friend feels like. Granted, fighting in sacrifice for relationships is an extremely necessary and beneficial endeavor; however, the security of knowing a friendship is safe no matter the distance regardless of your actions is evidently freeing. The pickup where you left off friend reminds us of the simple joy and privilege it is to live in security rather than trudging through the small talk and formalities life sometimes makes us carry out when reconnecting with old friends.
  2. They allow us to remain childlike: the pickup where you left off friend allows us to forget the routine of life for awhile and reminisce in a state of remembrance and camaraderie of the moments that first brought you together. For a moment we are released of life’s troubles and reminded how important it is to keep life simple and without worry, where applicable.
  3. They give us a picture of what it means to forgive and forget. As we engage with the pickup where you left off friend, we may be reminded of the brevity of time life offers between two people. We may be reminded life is too short to quarrel or spend missing people because there are far more beauties in life than to live in a state of bitterness or sorrow. The pickup where you left off friend becomes an encouragement to cherish the simple moments you currently have with the people in front of you and to always strive to love well, for we are not promised tomorrow.

Life goes on, friends, and it is such a privilege to be able to participate in this race. Everyday I’m reminded of the joy it is to live in beautiful relationship and to never stop fighting in love for the person in front of me.

This series is hopefully a reminder for you and I to love well and be intentional with the people God’s placed in our lives. It’s a call higher to walk in unconditional, responsive love for the people we naturally feel a propensity for and especially for the people we don’t necessarily vibe with.

From the man who does it the worst and in honor of a King who does it the best:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

The 6 Friends Everybody Needs: Part 5: The Older Friend

We’ve gone through quite a few types of friends leading up to this post. We’ve had the classic best friend who almost needs no distinction; we’ve also talked about the antithetical friend who, most of the time, is not an obvious nor convenient choice of relationship.

Now we find ourselves in front of a fifth crucial individual: the Older Friend.

Like it’s already been said, we naturally gravitate towards people who are most like us; this usually includes age, experience, and maturity. Most of us don’t seek to hang out with people younger than us much less people who have less experience in life-and rightfully so.

Unfortunately,  hanging out with people our own age simply sometimes gets mucky. Everyone is doing the same thing and coming up with noncreative solutions for everyday problems…it can feel like cabin fever.

 

But the older friend comes around and pretty much changes the game. He is usually a few years older and has gotten a head start on the significant stages of life such as college, a full time job, or even marriage. The pretentiousness that usually exists with people our own age seems to dissipate in conversation with the older friend; she knows where she stands and isn’t threatened by your existence like some of your peers would would perhaps feel. A clear distinction of experience is made and, as a result, sizing one another up becomes arbitrary; unadulterated transparency and friendship can take place.

So, in the spirit of diversity of friendship here are a few reasons why having an Older Friend makes sense:

  1. They Get “It”: In tough moments some of us go to older mentors. However, sometimes these mentors just don’t get it. We perceive them as judgmental and unable to understand our current context. Older friends have most likely been where you are within the last few years and can help bring helpful language towards a solution; this familiarity also breeds empathy which creates greater passage ways for further communication and understanding to take place.
  2. They Give You a Picture of Unthreatened Friendship: When dealing with peers it’s inconvenient and almost exhausting to deal with the insecurity and comparison that occurs between people of similar age. Some relationships would be wonderful if it wasn’t for ego, comparison, and an inability to see past certain qualities. The older friend usually is able to put all these things aside and see you for who you are and not what you are lacking. At the end of the day you guys can simply laugh and not worry about all the drama that comes along with friends similar in age.
  3. They are a Reflection of Unconditional Love: The love from an Older Friend is refreshing because they don’t simply see you as the younger, irrelevant human being like much of society might see you as. We, millenials, are often patronized and looked down upon for our arrogance and lack of experience. The older friend may even acknowledge our arrogance and lack of experience, but loves us through it anyway not because we deserve such treatment, but because they know it’s going to allow us to grow.

At the end of the day the older friend has very little selfish ambition when befriending younger folk; it doesn’t feel like they are loving you because they want to get a particular benefit out of the relationship. What a freeing thought, especially in the context of relationships, to know you aren’t being used and being loved for who you are! There it is folks, a few reasons why having an older friend is beneficial and wonderful!