I like to be organized. I’m the type to have a schedule and a plan for the day. The problem is lately, I’ve found myself busier than usual. So I’ll get into these ruts where I just work on my to-do list and put my focus on “getting things done” and I fail to make time for the most thing in life – nurturing relationships with others.
In our fast-paced world that values busy, I think it can be easy to place high value on productivity. So many have so much to do that we are constantly trying to figure out how to squeeze more tasks in our day.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking a lot on the value of relationships, and how important it is to take time to nurture them. A few years back I heard a news story about how people are more isolated than perhaps ever before in human history. Sure, we can travel nearly anywhere and move to new locations with relative ease, but whereas a few decades ago, people reported having several close friends in whom they could confide anything to, today most people are lucky if they have even one such friend. In this internet age where it is in some ways easier to connect than ever before, our connections tend to be shallower and we are actually quite disconnected.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness can lead to psychological and physical disorders, like high blood pressure and insomnia, and even lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke and earlier death. Truly, taking time to nurture relationships can mean life or death for ourselves and others. Perhaps it’s our culture’s increased isolation that makes it seem to me that we, as a culture, tend to have a lot of neuroses. Rather than healthy and balanced, present society seems more than a little frenetic. In fact, a recent study showed that many people would prefer to administer painful electric shocks to themselves, rather than spend 15 minutes alone with their thoughts.
In the Visitation Chapel at Elizabeth Ministry HQ, there is a picture of Sts. Elizabeth and Mary walking across a globe. Under the picture is the caption, “Never underestimate the value of a single visit.” So this last week I decided that when an opportunity arose for nurturing relationships, I would take it rather than think of all the things I had to get done and so decline. It ended up that building relationships seemed to be my primary work this week. I still made time to get my various tasks done, but my relationships came first. The result? I was definitely happier and feeling more connected with others increased my motivation. Hopefully those I spent time with had happier weeks too.
Though we are all called to be in relationship with others, I tend to think of relationship-building as one of the female super-powers. Jeannie Hannemann likes to remind people that under stress, women “tend and befriend”. We talk with others more and we like to get all the details; we put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to understand just what they mean and just what any given situation felt like for them. We thrive when we experience cooperation and compassion. It seems like our culture right now is in desperate need of this feminine gift. So may we recognize it, value it, and use it!