The title says it all really. I’ve been wrestling with this, publicly even, for a while now. I’m just realizing that no matter how hard I try to create a name for myself, my friendships stay the same. I can have a few thousand friends on facebook, even more followers on twitter, thousands of hits a day on my website, run conferences that hundreds of people come to, write books, star in movies, be a radio voice or protest loudly and when its all over, I still only really have a few meaningful connections.
It doesn’t matter how much influence you have over people or how many people know your name or like what you produce. As a human you can only have a limited amount of close, meaningful connections. They will usually consist of family and a few close friends, a number of acquaintances and that is about it. Do you really know anyone with a hundred best friends?
So this leaves me wondering what the big deal is about being a big deal? Why do we constantly strive to be noticed, important and respected? Is it because we don’t really find a lot of security in the relationships we currently have? Are they not deep enough? Maybe we are prideful and we love the attention. If we know we can’t really handle any more relationships, there has got to be a good reason why we are tricking ourselves and trying to trick everyone around us. It feels good. Friend lists stroke our ego. Acknowledgment reminds us of why we work so hard. We don’t really care if we have a few meaningful connections, as long as we can give off the impression that we have plenty.
I want to know that my range of influence goes well beyond my close circle of friends. More importantly, I want people to know that my influence is wide and far beyond circle. Quickly though, this desire turns into a task-driven, relationally starved pursuit that leaves me empty. I’ve always wondered what it is like for a celebrity to go home. Do their kids, wives and friends stare at them in awe and snap pictures of them the entire time? Probably not. Rather, this is where celebrities go to be with their meaningful connections. Friend’s make jokes about their new haircut, their children screaming that they want more dessert and cuddling up next to their spouse after a long day. Finally they can let their guard down, and just be themselves. These are the relationships that we all have, that need all of our attention.
With the digital age upon us. It is too easy to pour way too much time, energy and resources into our online image. We spend quite a bit of time editing our bios, posting pictures, updating twitter and putting the right order of words in the about us page on our websites that we forget what is happening right in front of us. Churches spend more money on their websites than ever before. They probably spend more time meeting about their websites than they do to meet about individual needs in the community. Why? So the outside world knows who they are, knows what they stand for and knows how awesome their church is.
I hope we can start to see our relationships, that are right in front of us, as the thing that motivates us. May we remember that we can go big and have a few meaningful connections, or we can stay small and have a few meaningful connections. Why would we ever choose to go big rather than to boost our own ego? Both sides are realities that only happen by intention, but may we follow the path of Jesus and make ourselves nothing. Focus in on what is right in front of you. Love your neighbour. Pay attention to the subtleties of life. Forget about your world-wide audience and pour your energy into your local one. Either way you are only going to have a few meaningful connections. So make them count. Don’t spend all your time trying to convince those few that you are greater than you really are.