Monthly Archives: July 2014

Connection – The Starting Point

There is a scientific notion that has caught on in mass culture. In 1961, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz created a computer program that simulated weather.*[1] Lorenz performed long-term forecasts with this simulation. One day, he made a change to one of a dozen numbers in the simulation used to represent atmospheric conditions. This may not mean anything to most of us, but that one change was in the number .506127 rounded to .506. That one small modification completely altered his long-term forecast. That subtle change in the simulation could amount to the wind displacement of a butterfly’s wings.

Because of this astounding effect, Lorenz wrote a paper in 1972 entitled, “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” In the paper, Lorenz presents a practical flaw. The flaw is that there is no way to determine if the butterfly’s flapping wings caused a tornado, or prevented one. The other issue is that once the butterfly flaps its wings, whatever change happened because of the flutter cannot be undone. In essence, the calculations are so intricate and precise, and there are too many variables involved to determine if an actual tornado was caused by a butterfly’s flapping wing. HOWEVER, the possibility is still there. I encourage you to click on the link in the reference at the bottom of this post to read the entire article about Lorenz. 

This concept is a deeply philosophical conversation, but can easily refer us back to our connections with each other. The only difference is the flap of a butterfly’s wings is natural and it will happen regardless of any positive or negative outcomes. It’s not as if the butterfly can decide to flap its wings or not because they will never know the effect they have on nature.

However, in our relationships we have more control over our actions and words than a butterfly does over its wings. It can be argued that one negative word said from a parent to a child in their developmental stage can play a large role in the life of that young one. One careless word spoken from a believer to a non-believer can drive that non-believer further away from God, yet, one intentional word or action showing God’s love can drive that non-believer closer to a relationship with God.

Our daily connections with others can have a lasting influence long after an interaction, a conversation, or a brief encounter with someone. Yet, if we do not practice connecting with others on a regular basis, we will never know WHO or WHAT we could have influenced for good.

WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

For us to truly understand the weight of our responsibility, we need to go back and look at why and how we are connected and the obstacles we face in our relationships that can be overcome, if we grasp the why and how.

Genesis 2:18:  It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.

Going all the way back to the beginning, we know that we were never meant to be alone in this world. Even God saw the need for us to connect in meaningful relationships with others.

Sitting on a plane, in a classroom, in church, at work; standing in a grocery store line, walking in your neighborhood, living in the same town, coming from the same state – ALL of these are starting points that help us to connect with people at the most basic level. They are entryways to relationship. They are connection points. The only thing keeping us from walking through those entryways is a decision.

There is a Research Professor from the University of Houston Graduate College, author and speaker named Brene Brown, who gave a talk regarding her research about connection with others.[2] (Click on the link in the reference section below to view her TED Talk where this information originated). In her talk she says… 

     Connection is why we are here. It is what gives us purpose in our lives. Connection and the feeling of being connected is biological. (We see this from the passage in Genesis, where God takes the rib from Adam and creates Eve. All of mankind stems from that first creation.) There are two obstacles that can enter into our minds when we reach the entryway to relationship with someone…

  1. Shame: the fear of connection. This says, if someone gets to know me for what I really am, I will feel shame
  2. Fear: This says, “I’m not good enough. I’m not handsome enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not knowledgeable enough. I’m not _________ enough.

When we reach the entryway into relationship through a connection point, we need to come to the place where we have to allow ourselves to “be seen”. In other words, it is being vulnerable – excruciating vulnerability. For most of us, vulnerability is a dirty word.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Genesis 2:25 says: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

There was no shame. There was no fear. They were completely vulnerable to the other.

There was what Brene Brown calls a “sense of worthiness, a strong sense of belonging.” Adam and Eve believed they were worthy of love and belonging. For some of us, we have trouble grasping the idea that we are “worthy” of love and belonging. For believers, this should be what drives us to relationship with others, but we allow the feeling of “unworthiness” to rob us of meaningful relationships.

There was a study done at the University of Houston Graduate College that discovered for those who believe they are worthy of love and belonging, they had a sense of courage, compassion and connection with others. They had the courage to be imperfect; the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, and they were able to connect with others as a result of their authenticity in relationship. Those in the study were willing to let go of who they thought they SHOULD BE, in order to BE WHO THEY REALLY ARE to connect with other people. (See reference section and click on link to Brene Brown’s video to hear more).

To get to this point, you need to embrace vulnerability. What makes you vulnerable is makes you beautiful. We ALL are sinful. We ALL need a Savior. We ALL need to confess this need. Vulnerability will be the subject of the next post. 

What are your thoughts? Add your comment. Let’s have a discussion about the basic foundation of relationship – connection. 

References: 

[1] * Dizikes, Peter. (2014, June 8). The Meaning of the Butterfly. Retrieved June 1, 2014 from http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/06/08/the_meaning_of_the_butterfly/?page=full

[2] YouTube. (2010, June). Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability#t-19066


The Purpose of Relationship

We see throughout history the causes of broken relationships: pride, vanity, arrogance, racism, narcissism, self-importance, power, lying, cheating, stealing, jealousy, ineffective communication, control, and the list could continue for several pages. Just take a mental inventory of the broken relationships in your own life. What was the root cause, whether you were the source or someone else? Chances are the relationship could have been saved or could be mended with some humility on both ends.

We have struggled for years on relationships. There are so many differences that divide us, whether culturally, racially, socio-economically, politically, philosophically, etc. So what is the purpose of relationship? This is a big question that could potentially take an entire book to unpack. However, we can state the foundational purpose of relationship in a couple short paragraphs, if you will indulge me.

The Purpose of Relationship

The purpose of relationship is companionship at its very core. That companionship can be on different levels, such as family (husband, wife, children), friends (hobbies, shared interests, fun), work, team (a shared goal). In the process of these differing levels, something happens. The need to connect on a deeper level rises to the top. We will inevitably try to find a way to build on what connects us. Sometimes this is successful, and sometimes it is not. Why do teams fail? It probably has something to do with a lack of relationship. Why do families fall apart? It probably has something to do with a discrepancy in relationship.

A companion is someone you share experiences with. Therefore, the reason you enter into relationships is quite possibly to share experiences with others, to bring meaning to your life, and to come to a place of trust and understanding. This is why it is so devastating when someone breaches a relational bond – and it can become more difficult for someone to connect with others in that way.

Take a look at just one area – your WORK team.  At work, you cannot escape it, you will be around people.  If you are around people, you will be forced to interact. When forced to interact, you need to make the decision to be a valued part of the team.  When you make the decision to be a valued part of the team, others will be drawn to you. When others are drawn to you, that means you are already part of a relationship – a team relationship. What kind of team member will you be? If you connect with others in a meaningful way – with the purpose of bringing value to the team and to others – a companionship will develop.

If we dig deep down in our thoughts and feelings, we desire companionship, to be accepted, to have friends, to feel valued, to make a difference. All of these desires can only be realized in the context of relationship with others. There is something deep-rooted in us that desires companionship through relationships with others.

I have met and talked to many people who had as their goal to “make it to the top”. One common thread among the ones who didn’t value the relationships in their life was the realization that they didn’t have any meaningful friendships. What good is it to rise to the top of any field if you cannot share it in some way with those you have gathered around you to share life?  What good is it if you do not have companionship with others?

Understanding this concept of relationship – or at least making yourself a student of it striving to improve your relational capacity to enhance your existing and future relationships – will certainly improve your life, your work, your leadership, and well… your relationships. Go ahead and strive to be the best at what you do. Just remember, being the best at what you do includes as a vital part of the equation… valuing others, developing companionship and shared goals, and an expanding relational capacity.

What are your thoughts on the purpose of relationship? This post is an attempt at stating the fundamental purpose. Let’s expand on this thought…

Share your thoughts by posting a comment to this blog!  


Inhibitions

Inhibitions – those pesky little thoughts that we allow to keep us from doing something, accomplishing something, speaking to someone, taking that risk, seizing that moment, speaking in front of a group of people, getting on that roller coaster, flying down that zip line, and the list can go on.  They are also what stop us from entering into, developing, or even taking the time to be in “relationship” with others.

Another word for inhibitions would be insecurities.  When the words, “I can’t…” or “I don’t…” or “no one will…” or “who are you to…” come into our thought streams, we have a choice to make.  Do we allow those thoughts to cripple us and keep us on the ledge overlooking relationships with others? OR Will we jump off that ledge into the waters below immersing ourselves into the messiness of relationships.

Our insecurities are the inner screams we wish no one would hear. We do not wish to confess them for fear they make us look weak. When someone discovers them, or sees them in us, we build up a fortress that looks strong on the outside. As a matter of fact, I can hear that inner voice right now saying, “No one wants you to write about this. What if someone thinks less of you or stops caring what you are writing?”

Yes, that’s right.  I have struggled with battling my inhibitions and insecurities most of my adult life.  I wish I could say I have overcome them. However, whenever I get close to a success the battle rages.  I have become more proficient at silencing these thoughts – but I remain humbled by them nonetheless.  Why would ANYONE confess this?  I must be crazy right?

Maybe.  However, one thing I have learned is that being vulnerable up front (not baring all my faults, but showing others that I am who I am, faults and all) tends to shoot down the negative thoughts flying around my thought airfield. It has taken me a long time, and I am not successful at this all the time. Yet, when I am faced with the uncertainty, anxiety and diffidence surrounding me, it has become easier to climb over those emotional obstacles when I make the decision not to listen to them.

Do I still fail? Do I still make mistakes?  YES!!! When I do, do I still battle with the afterthoughts that try to plague my next step forward? YOU BET YA!!!

The difference, you might ask? The difference is I embrace it now.  Sometimes I need a good swift kick in the aft deck by someone that loves me and reminds me that I am slipping into the lake of timidity saying, “JUST CUT IT OUT! Pick yourself up off the mat and go back swinging!”

Kobe Bryant, point guard for the LA Lakers said, “I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”

What would happen if today you decided in one of your relationships – to take a step forward and take a risk. Take the risk that says, “I don’t want to pretend to be something in order to impress someone. I will be myself even if that means I show I have faults.” Find a safe environment, some people you can trust. Open up about your inhibitions/insecurities and what you feel is holding you back. Allow them to speak into your life and call you out when you allow those pesky thoughts to hold you back.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please post a comment. Share this blog with someone and invite them to the conversation.  What holds you back? What helps you prevail over those negative thoughts?


The “Wonder Years”

Have you ever seen that show, “The Wonder Years”? Some of my teenage years I felt like Kevin Arnold. It was an age of discovery, identity, and development. I sometimes wonder how I made it out of my teenage years. It always helps to have a brother who is older and in the same high school, at least for a year.

I was in 9th grade. Somehow, I had made a name for myself, but it was through my brother at first.  I had gone from someone who was ridiculed (don’t get me wrong, I did have friends but I was very insecure), body parts all growing at different rates and nerdy, to someone who was accepted, finally having hands and feet that matched the rest of my body…and still nerdy.

My brother was in 12th grade and had already made friends.  I became known as Rob Chrystal’s little brother.  I joined Mock Trial and became a lawyer. That year our team went all the way to the state regionals in Annapolis, Maryland.  We lost in the semi-finals.  Through that year I obtained the name “Mad-Dog Dan” for ripping a piece of evidence out of the hand of the other team’s witness.

Also, that year I started attending a youth group at a church called Trinity. They were having a guest speaker come who would visit six high schools.  His name is Dave Roever. He is a Vietnam Veteran with a phenomenal story of triumph over tragedy that took place in his life.  You can find out more information about him by clicking HERE.  He still travels the globe today.

After watching a video of his story being presented in a high school auditorium, I was determined to ensure that my high school would be one of the six schools chosen.  THIS is where I learned the importance of networking and overcoming fears and insecurities for the sake of relationship.

The thoughts that went through my mind were, “Why would the church youth leadership pick my school? You don’t know anyone. You’re not important enough. They will look right past you.” These fears can be crippling when trying to accomplish something. They can also be crippling when trying to build relationships with others.

The trouble with these insecurities and fears are usually no one else knows you are feeling them. It is like being trapped inside your mind and feeling as if no one can hear the inner screams of inadequacy.  Thankfully, I had parents and friends who were very encouraging. I never heard from them, “You cannot do this.” In fact, the opposite was true. My parents and friends continued to embolden me with words such as, “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had not had people in my life that would take the time to share encouragement, words of confidence and affirmation, and allowing me the freedom to “go for it.” Even with those words I struggled with assertiveness. However, pushing through these negative feelings allowed me the opportunity to bring the school a fantastic assembly – the first assembly in the school’s history where the entire student body was allowed to come.

It set a precedent for my high school career; opened doors of relationship with my teachers and other students; and although I still struggled with feelings of inadequacy – I had friends around me that spoke inspiration, support, and perseverance into my life.

These events taught me the value of being an encourager in relationships with others.  It’s never fun to be a part of a relationship where there is LITTLE TO NO mutual encouragement. Relationships work best when there is a healthy amount of support on both sides.

Take the opportunity today to BE THE ENCOURAGER in one (or many) of your relationships: your spouse, your child, a friend going through a difficult moment in time; a co-worker; or even to someone you do not know – a cashier, waiter or waitress, etc.

This is one of the characteristics in the Art of Relationship. It can be the difference in someone accomplishing something of value in their lives. Encouragement yields encouragement. Take a look at this short clip – and pass it on to someone else…

ENCOURAGEMENT – Pass it On

Look for posts on my blog about once a week.  Right now, I will be sharing some personal stories and how I have learned some valuable lessons about the Art of Relationship. Later on, we will get into more depth and look closely at some aspects and characteristics as we rediscover the LOST ART OF RELATIONSHIP.

Have a thought about this post? Please share some feedback below, share it with a friend.  Thanks for reading!


The Beginning…

My first “job” was when I was twelve years old.  I remember going to church one Sunday and my father introduced me to a man named John Kafka.  He shook my hand. As a 12-year-old, I simply took his hand, but soon found out that he had a death grip.  He said to me, “Danny, it is nice to meet you. May I tell you something that will help you with your future?” I said, “Yes sir.” He replied, “Whenever you shake someone’s hand, show confidence. You squeeze that person’s hand so they know you are confident. A good firm handshake says a lot about who you are to others.”

I will never forget that first lesson he gave me.  My father had always taught me to show respect for others, not to lie, to work hard.  I still think my dad talked to John Kafka and asked him to become a mentor for me at the tender age of 12. John Kafka was the president of Polock Johnny’s (click link for history of restaurant) and owned a house in a more expensive neighborhood.  He was a wealthy man who had worked hard to get to where he was. He still wore clothes from the thrift store.  He gave me a job at his house making $28 every Saturday to weed the rock garden behind his house and on the hill behind the in ground pool.  It was a tough job, but it strengthened my hands and arm muscles, so I didn’t have to work so hard to give a firm handshake. My dad would drop me off before he went to work and pick me up 9 hours later.

I would not realize it until later, but John Kafka taught me so much about the importance of relationship. Every relationship needs to be mutual. Most of the time, we need to work hard at maintaining healthy relationships.  Some of the most beneficial relationships can happen through tragic circumstances.

I will never forget the night. It was a Thursday night and I just finished taking a shower.  My dad knocked on the bathroom door and asked if he could come in.  I asked him to tell me through the door since I wasn’t decent.  He told me that John Kafka had just died that day.  I took the news pretty hard.  I sank to the floor leaning on the door of the bathroom and cried.  Not only was he the first person to give me a job, he was the first person (other than my father, who I consider my hero) to teach me valuable lessons about hard work, discipline, and the importance of relationship.  I did not know it, but the lessons on relationship would deepen in the coming year.

John’s wife, Marge Kafka, asked me to continue to come and help around the outside of the house.  I would weed the rock garden and all around their flowerbeds.  It was a lot of territory to cover.  I was now 13 and making $50 every Saturday.  What happened while I worked there for Marge I did not expect.  She would invite me in to have lunch and eventually we would spend 2 to 3 hours every Saturday just talking and keeping each other company.  She had become very lonely with her kids out of the house and her husband gone.  I would always worry that I wasn’t getting the work completed, but she reassured me that her money was being well spent.

What I discovered later was that she desired relationship and companionship, conversation and a feeling of belonging.  She found it in a 13-year-old teenager.  During a time when as a teenager your life becomes more about you than others, I was learning the importance of time well spent with someone who needed connection.  I’m convinced she saw me as her adopted grandson.  She even let me swim in her pool on the hot Saturdays after I got done working until my dad came to pick me up.

I only worked for Marge another 18 months (from spring to fall), until I was old enough to get a job in a bookstore closer to home.  The lessons I learned about putting others first, simply being there for someone, a firm handshake, hard work, and the necessity of seeing value in others were the beginning of almost 30 years and counting – of learning about relationships.

Relationship is underrated.  I hope through this web log to go on a journey of discovery, learning, and applying the Lost Art of Relationship.  Will you join me?

If you would, please comment on this post and share a story of when you first learned the value of relationship…

Here are some pics of Polock Johnny’s… The history of the restaurant can be found by clicking the link in second paragraph.