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Making Connections: Need, the Great Equalizer

January 15, 2016

I am so grateful for my friends, family, church and nation. Nevertheless, one has to wonder why it is becoming so much harder today for people to connect with others or stay united within their marriages, families, churches, communities, and nations? And how might we pull back together?

The Root of Division and Strife

Be it racism, politics, discomfort among family members, or religious differences, division usually finds its roots in pride. Even when there are issues to work out or many differences of opinion, it is very rare that a true division between people must actually exist. One perfect example of this was discovered after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. The press highlighted the unlikely friendship between this conservative Justice and liberal Justice Ruth Ginsburg. Despite sitting at polar opposite sides on many issues being heard by the Supreme Court, they shared a very close relationship.

Of course, there are, indeed, times when one must take a stand against people with opposing points of view. For example, when a radical group like ISIS or the Third Reich tries to force people to accept their extremist views by the removal of their personal freedoms or through a campaign of terror and death, a war or police action must ensue. Of course, in a free world, everyone is entitled to believe how they want to believe. But it wouldn’t matter what they believed in. Even if they were walking in the truth, it is rarely acceptable to impose upon the freedoms of others. More on that concept in just a moment. Nevertheless, even in cases where people are trying to force their point of view upon others, pride is typically the energy that fuels it.

Where Pride Comes From

Pride is a part of our psychological  defense system. We use it to protect our psychological selves (identity, self-image). Negative or positive reactions or actions (e.g., rage, ambition, criticism…) based upon pride or this need for self-preservation are made in an effort to protect that part of us which senses a potential psychological threat. These threats can come in many forms such as rejection, humiliation, or shame. Pride might be likened to being physically prepared for emergencies or reacting in self-defense against some sort of physical threat. However, when people are less psychologically developed, it will usually be their pride that will get them into big trouble with others.

Psychological maturity takes time to develop. One doesn’t expect a child or a teenager to understand how to react with maturity and grace when humiliated by others. Nevertheless, where pride is concerned, age rarely has anything to do with it. There are many people in middle age running corporations that are still emotionally immature. Why is that? Because few people, even psychologists, know what to do to fix this problem.

Those individuals who are most likely to act superior, self-righteous, or react irrationally out of pride are usually that way because they have either sustained a major emotional or psychological wound and/or they often hold an incorrect perception or belief about who they are (i.e., self-concept) or their worth (self-esteem).

Circumstances that create these wounds or beliefs usually surround a childhood experience with or perception of rejection, trauma, abuse, neglect, shame, or humiliation. This only intensifies with wounds sustained during adulthood. Emotional work done within the environment of the church, or with a psychologist, or by reading a self-help book can help in these circumstances, but the goal would be to train parents and teachers how to teach children to handle these feelings before they become pathogenic; creating a psychological disease that turns dangerous to themselves and others.

Wounded, emotionally immature people tend to be easily manipulated by those things, people, or ideas that hold the promise of helping them redeem their self-esteems (spouses, bosses, parents, heroes, groups, accomplishments, money, titles, politics, religion, extremist regimes). The range of what that can mean to individuals is myriad. For example, they may join an extremist group or get themselves into an unhealthy marriage or abusive relationship that they cannot extract themselves from. That’s because in order to feel at peace within themselves they need to earn that person or group’s acceptance. Or they might never feel right until they have so much money, a certain title, or way of life.

They are usually easily offended and even self-righteous at times. Therefore, the people who care for or work with them may get the feeling that they must forever walk on eggshells whenever they are around. If a group such as a family or a church suffers a split up, it is usually perpetuated by an individual entrapped by this sort of emotional immaturity.

These stressed-out people will struggle continually throughout their lives to create the conditions that will help them gain that sense of inner peace they lack. But this will never happen unless they are able to work out why they feel so unworthy and are able to heal from their old wounds. To learn more about how that happens, you will want to read more within this blog and subscribe for updates. Also, you will be greatly helped by my book, Accelerated Transformation: Maturity, Intimacy, and Unity through Emotional Healing.

Of course, at times, division between people can also be the result of ignorance to the truth. Nevertheless, people will also often hold onto their ignorance, prejudices, and beliefs for much the same reason; the fear of rejection or of suffering from a feeling of shame or disgrace.

Those individuals who are psychologically afraid to hear the points of view of others, often use pride to protect their identities. Identification with a certain people group gives many people a sense of added protection as well. The need to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to be a part of a group is a powerful motivator; be it for good (joining charitable organizations) or evil (becoming a terrorist). See for example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to learn more.

Sadly, until a program is implemented in schools and society to help heal people of their childhood wounds and educate them to turn around their misconceptions about themselves and about life, most of humanity will continue to suffer from pride to one degree or the other. So the potential to see a small issue explode into division which creates strife and hatred between people is always going to be present among human beings.

What is it that can equalize the playing field and can break down these walls of individual or group pride? A crisis.

Need: The Great Equalizer

Our vulnerability or need is a great equalizer. When we are vulnerable, we no longer have the option to live behind our walls of pride. However, it is also true that many people will instead grow more bitter and prideful and begin doing things like blaming others or God after any crisis touches them. But the truth of the matter is, when pride is our problem, those unfortunate circumstances and situations that create need in our lives actually have the potential to be our salvation.

Of course, getting bitter or blaming others never helps. Going down that road will only make things worse for us, locking our hearts up even tighter, making us harder and meaner. That is just a natural human tendency; to try to bring a sense of control back into our lives, to cut out of our lives anything that might hurt us in the future. Instead, we should try and make that difficult circumstance into our opportunity to do a little soul searching.

Returning to an earlier statement regarding it rarely right to force anyone into believing the way we do, let’s investigate the natural tendency to human beings to blame God during difficult times. Of course, God isn’t to blame for the crises we experience. According to wisdom taught in the Bible, we are told in God’s effort to teach us to trust Him and to promote the value of love and relationships among naturally narcissistic human beings during the early stages of development, He gave humanity the freedom of choice (in other words, you just can’t force people to love you). Is it not true that much of the turmoil in our lives comes to us when we or others exercise this freedom and make destructive or unwise choices? So, how does any of this help us connect with God and others?

Experiencing the consequences of our own actions or becoming a witness to the harmful foolishness of others can be great teachers; albeit very painful ones! They have the potential to teach us the value of life, of others, and of leading a considerate and clean lifestyle or of “doing good” (e.g., following God, the wisdom of our parents, following the rules, etc.).

Other difficulties that come our way, such as natural disasters, diseases, and accidents can also help rid us of our pride. In the beginning, our first parents wanted to be God. So, to enlighten His children of the utter foolishness of this human tendency, He went ahead and let them try. Consequently, this type of circumstance can give us a greater understanding of our humble placement in this big bad world of ours. It can also enhance our understanding of our need for others when times get difficult (e.g., assistance/comfort from God, our families, friends, society).

Let’s look at the lesson we were supposed to gain from America’s founding fathers/mothers, the Mayflower Pilgrims, after Thanksgiving was set up as an American holiday.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when we count out blessings. It is when we are to take the time to stop long enough to consider how grateful we are for our lives, for the kindness of those who reach out to help us (including of civic-minded strangers working behind the scenes), and for our connections to friends and family members. But, unfortunately, as time has moved on, our society has become increasingly isolated from others and, therefore, much more selfish. This condition comes from living in a well-supplied nation with fewer and fewer opportunities for Americans to be truly vulnerable anymore.

The Ministry of Vulnerability

There is a blessing or ministry that comes to us from our vulnerabilities. If we had no need of anything or anyone, we’d never learn to love, trust, or get along with others. As you may know, our founding fathers and mothers were given life-sustaining assistance by a group of kindhearted American Indians during a time when they were in a very vulnerable place. Because of their late departure from Britain, they were made vulnerable to the elements, disease, and an overall lack of preparedness and the majority of them died during that first winter.

Vulnerability can be a scary place to be, but it also has the potential to be life transforming as well. You see, being in a place of need is what’s required for many of us to be able to finally make those life-giving connections with others that we so desperately need. We need others both psychologically and physically to help us have healthy and abundant lives. Sometimes being made vulnerable is the only thing that will bring us to the point humility where we can finally lay down those protective walls of pride that we have wrapped so tightly around our hearts. These walls of fear and pride invariably keep others out of our lives and trap us in a place we don’t want to be; alone and isolated with our fear and pride.

But just think about how humbling it had to be for those Pilgrims to open their hearts up to seek out the assistance of others. It is the same for each of us. Yet this may be the very thing that could save us in the end. Whether that salvation comes to us on a physical or material level, as it did in the case of the Mayflower Pilgrims or on a spiritual and psychological level, as it is when we must lay down our pride and open our hearts up, it is in our connections with others (including God) that can potentially brings us greater satisfaction, helpful resources and vital wisdom into our lives.

We all need help from time to time to negotiate this life. In a world where just about every sort of assistance can be rendered to us with only a few dollars, people tend to have less need for quality contact with others. Think about it. Who did human beings need to contact for advice on how to fix something or get a good recipe from? Our family members. But today, we have Youtube and the Internet. While I, too, love Youtube and the Internet, they are making the members of our society even more isolated that they already were.

Similarly, before there were food deliveries or automobiles to quickly take us to the store if we ran out of an ingredient for our dinner, we depended upon our neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar from. Nowadays, most people don’t even know what their neighbors even look like! But back in the good ol’ days, when communities were smaller and since we knew that we might need our neighbors and community at some point in time, people had the tendency to treat one another with greater respect and kindness than they do now. That usually meant we had to engage in some social etiquette and make an effort to invite them over once and a while. Today, with the vast number of people that there are in most cities, and the ability to move away if things get sticky, that sort of cordiality almost totally unnecessary now. How sad.

At one time, it was your neighbors that helped you fight off the marauding raiders and vandals that came to town to steal what you and your neighbors had worked so hard for. As the Bible teaches us, there is “no greater love hath any man than to lay down his life for another.” But those days are basically gone. Consequently, love is growing colder in the heart of humanity as people lose their need for one another.

Learning to embrace our vulnerabilities makes us more authentic. While bad choices may have led the Pilgrims’ to their vulnerability, having gone through it put their hearts in a much better position to receive the friendship and help from a people group that they might have normally shunned in their pride and religious arrogance. That is why need is such a great equalizer. But by forging these relationships, a new civilization of diverse and more tolerant people was able to be born.

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This article was written by Tracey Nelson, MALC, M.Ed. from the blog entitled, Healing Christ’s Spotless Bride (https://thespotlessbride.wordpress.com). Permission to reproduce and use in other media without charge is granted if the author’s information and a link to it is included at no charge to those who wish to read it.

 

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