Skip to main content

the social

I just finished reading the book, The Search to Belong, by Joseph R. Myers. It explores the 4 primary spaces that relationships happen in our lives.
1. Public: we connect to strangers through an outside influence such as a sporting event; there is little interaction beyond this event or location, but it is significant to our lives.
2. Social: we relate to others we have a connection with, we present "snapshots" of ourselves as we encounter others in a casual setting and relate briefly.
3. Personal: we develop friendships and share private experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
4. Intimate: we are "naked" and intimate with a few people in our lives, sharing our inmost thoughts and feelings without shame.

I do very well in the public setting because I love the energy of a large group where there is no need to engage with everyone. But, I naturally gravitate to the personally intimate spaces, and sometimes find the social setting frustrating because I believe that I need to have a deep and meaningful conversation in order to feel like the event was a success! That is a totally unrealistic expectation, and reading this book helped me understand why I have left so many group outings feeling deflated and overlooked. I was looking for intimacy in all the wrong places.

The other challenging point Myers makes is that we should be relating to God in all of these spaces and not trying to hurry everyone to the intimate place as if it were the only one of real value. Yes, I have done that. I sometimes introduce intimacy at inappropriate times instead of letting people encounter God and each other in all spaces. I forget that God made us to be social beings as well as communal beings.

Every space is valid and necessary for a healthy and whole community life. We only have the energy for a few intimate relationships, so I should not try to have that kind of closeness with everyone I meet. Being intimate with everyone means that there is no real intimacy! The ratio Myers gives is roughly this: for every 8 people in your public space, you will have 4 social connections, 2 personal friends, and 1 intimate relationship. A healthy and vibrant community is made up of a group who has connections on every level in harmonious balance, seeing God at work in all of them.

Yesterday, I participated in a group outing. There were about a dozen people, some coming and going throughout the day, as we celebrated Quebec's national holiday. We started with brunch, then played several games of Mafia (I nailed the part of the Doctor in one game - oh yeah!), then headed to the park for frisbee tossing, water balloon catch, and a pick-up game of soccer. After that, we went back to a friend's apartment for a rest and a drink, then headed downtown for dinner at a Thai restaurant. After the meal, we wandered around downtown Montreal for a bit, got some ice cream and drinks and sat by a fountain, talking and relaxing in the warm evening air. It was one of the best days of my life in Montreal.

Part of the reason was that I had prepared myself that morning by saying, "This is a social outing, Matte. Don't expect to have any deep conversations about people's inner thoughts. Just enjoy the day, play games, relate to others in an easy and friendly manner, and take delight in every person that you interact with, no more expectations than that." And so I did. God was very present. His name came up occasionally in the conversation, we spontaneously prayed for a friend with a sore knee, and every time I ran and jumped and drank water and laughed at the silliness of someone and commended the skill of another, or saw other people do the same, I felt his pleasure.

Imagine that: God being present and alive in a casual social setting and that being as valuable as a Bible study or a time of worship! Yes, it's true!

This is me on my balcony just before heading out to celebrate Quebec with friends.

Comments

Shelley said…
loved this matte...I am not good at recognizing the appropriate setting. I head straight for the 'deep' conversation, or avoid others altogether when I am not 'up' for that...
I am way to 'all or nothing'!
steven hamilton said…
awesome! God taking in deeep...

!vive le québécois!
Tobi Elliott said…
Yayyyy Matte! Sweetly insightful as always... thanks for sharing your learning curve with us.

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

lessons from a theological memoir and a television series about lawyers

It's a hot Wednesday afternoon, so let's talk about false binaries. Basically, a false binary or false dichotomy happens when a person's options are artificially limited to two choices, thereby excluding all other possibilities. Insisting on the limited choice of either A or B leaves no room for middle ground or another, more creative solution. In other words, a false binary assumes the rest of the alphabet (after A and B) does not exist.

Binary thinking is quite prevalent in our society. Either you are for me or against me. Either you are guilty or innocent. Either you are a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal. Either you are a Christian or a pagan. Either you are all in or all out. Admittedly, it is convenient to see things as either black or white, but we live in a multi-coloured world and not everything fits neatly into two categories. This is why insisting there are only two choices when, in fact, other options exist, is labeled as a fallacy in logic an…