The Life Skill I Never Knew The Church Taught Me

There’s a couple from my home church who I’ve grown quite fond of, and by fond of I mean that I really don’t know where I’d be without them and I show up to their house sometimes unannounced to eat their food, gain some of their wisdom, and talk about Jesus til the early hours of the morning.

In the midst of one of those talks the other night with Andréa, who started out as a mentor when I was 13 and has since become a dear friend (hey Andréa, does that make you my frientor?), we got on the topic of social media and how it has drastically changed the way people communicate with one another. She voiced that she felt like it had made things too complicated, while I think social media could be considered a huge blessing since it allows us to connect so easily with friends, family, and those too far away to see regularly.

I kept using the word connect, but Andréa stopped me to make me question if what I am really doing with people on social media is truly connecting. When I desire to connect with someone, I want more than to know where they went on vacation, or how many likes they got on a picture. When I pursue connection with people, what I really want is a relationship. And if I’m being honest, social media hasn’t done too much to enhance my relational and social skills.

Andréa voiced her concern about younger generations and their abilities to truly connect and interact with others. We spend so much time communicating behind a screen, so when we’re face-to-face she’s noticed a lot of young people struggle to carry on simple conversations. I pointed out that even though I’ve “grown up” in the world of social media, I’m still confident in my ability to hold conversations and cultivate relationships. What she said next totally surprised me but made sense all at the same time. She said, “Well, you grew up in the church.”

Of all the things I thought I had learned at church, “people skills” really weren’t at the top of the list. But when I think back on the place where I made the most friends, interacted with people of all ages, spoke in front of large crowds, and confronted conflict, it was all at church.

Sure, I had friends throughout school, and I had to learn how to deal with authority through teachers and bosses at work, but church is largely the only place where I’ve been able to initiate and cultivate deep, meaningful relationships. The reason I can talk to strangers, be vulnerable, discuss differing opinions with others, handle conflict, and desire more than simple interaction through a screen is because I grew up in the church environment, which taught me that real connection means real relationship. And real relationships need to be nurtured in real ways, not by liking pictures to let someone know we’re interested, posting a selfie to determine our worth, or tweeting song lyrics to let them know we’re mad.

I’m guilty of all of the above, but I’m making an honest effort to do better. I know that not everyone grew up in the same church environment as me, however, it’s not too late to practice real, sincere communication. Start viewing people as human beings, not screens. And realize that those around you are worth the slightly uncomfortable moments that cross us over from Facebook friends to people in true fellowship with one another.

With honest love,

Claire

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