I was almost 50 years old when I got it. I’ve always had a bunch of great friends and acquaintances. But, learning to connect deeply with a few people didn’t come naturally for me. It’s been an awkward and sometimes unsettling process…to let a handful of people get close to me. But it’s been worth all the discomfort and resistance. It probably saved my life.
That fact may come as a surprise to some people because of my background and training. After all, I was a minister and family counselor. In some ways, however, my profession made intimacy—connecting deeply with people—even more difficult.
We all share this crippling pattern. The respected roles most of us live within reinforce the ways we isolate and hide from each other. Image is everything to us.
Seldom acknowledged, the fear we all share is that of being known on a deeper level. It’s the fear of not having our lives all buttoned up and looking good—the dread of never being enough, never having enough, or never doing enough. It’s the kind of fear that fuels and drives our efforts to protect our public persona. Approval trumps authenticity.
Women connect with others better than men do. It’s just a fact of life.
I read recently that when a man goes for counseling, he will need an entire year to “catch up” to his wife’s capacity for openness, honesty and vulnerability. Hopefully, that will provoke some empathy for most of the men we know. I don’t think it’s their intention—to stand back and stay shut down. It’s probably the hard-wiring men acquired from millennia of conditioning to be warriors and survivors.
In a recent blog, I started talking about The Anchors for my life that have become so important to me. The first Anchor was Listen to My Heart (December 18, 2013), where I underscored the importance of carving out regular “appointments” with myself, for silence and solitude, for listening to my heart. There I wrote:
How can we possibly inspire, teach and motivate someone until we hear his dreams and understand his “why”. Only then do we have a legitimate shot at helping someone craft a vision and develop pathways to his dreams.
Doesn’t it make sense that we must learn to listen to ourselves with as much caring presence. Listening to my heart is how I uncover and design a life—and a business—with purpose.
The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our relationships, and the relationship that shapes all others is the relationship we carry out with ourselves. I’m committed now to carving out the time I will need for nurturing the life within my life.
I’m also now “all in” when it comes to cultivating an IN-TO-ME-SEE kind of relationship with a few men, as well as with my wife, Sally.
Their names and faces pass before me during the day because they are the people with whom I share my greatest joys and most horrifying moments. I can tell them when I am filled with fear, when I feel like an idiot, or when I’m downright proud of something I’ve accomplished.
Running to those safe people releases me from the shame that floods me when I screw up, and reminds me that I am worthy and that I am enough just being me. Five minutes later, one of them may be calling me to pour out his hurt or frustration or urge to throw in the towel.
We don’t try to fix or change each other’s attitude, or talk someone out of his negative feelings. Instead, we are free to fall into each other’s acceptance, and from that place, discover the time and space needed to recover our equilibrium and sanity.
I personally lean hard on the God I believe loves and accepts me with utter grace and kindness, and learning to connect with a few has made that kind of love the transforming difference in my life.