Two Are Better than One

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Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – January 2017

By Pastor Lloyd Pulley

For nearly an hour, they barely uttered a word.

A married couple was out for a lovely dinner.  Although they sat across from one another, they never spoke or had eye contact.  Instead, both were smiling down at their phones as they scrolled through their social media feeds.

The scene is not entirely uncommon.  We have all seen people, or perhaps we are the people, who walk, eat, and even drive with the blue glow of our smartphones incessantly reflected on our faces.  

In many ways, social media has made us anti-social.  We have created for ourselves a virtual world based entirely on our individualized profiles.  We have “friends” based on our own likes and dislikes, and when any of those friends offend us, we simply unfriend or unfollow them.  We are in full control of our online world, a place where we never have to interact with people unless we choose to do so.

This world of selfies and personal profiles is in many ways the opposite of true community.  True community is not unfriending people with whom we disagree, but communicating face to face to resolve conflict as it arises.  In other words, genuine community challenges the isolation we tend to create with “social” media.  Community is based on relationship, and as we all know, relationship can involve discomfort and even pain.

Creating a world around our own wants and desires, devoid of any responsibility to other people, is tempting. But taken to its logical conclusion, creating a world that revolves around us leaves us lonely and makes our lives less fulfilling.  

Consider the lives of most criminals.  Detectives investigating capital crimes usually search for three primary criminal motivations: the accumulation of possessions or wealth, power, and sex.  Writing over 2,000 years ago, the apostle John identified these same traps: the desires of the eyes, the desires of the body, and the pride of life.  

What keeps any one of us from becoming a hardened criminal is the fundamental value that life is much more than the incessant, instant gratification of our lesser urges.  Relationship, with all of its complications, trumps the pursuit of possessions, fame, and sex.  

A quick peek at the most common gravestone inscriptions illustrates the point.  Have you ever read an epitaph that touts one’s financial holdings or career achievements?  Rather, you are more likely to read words like, “ Beloved father, grandfather, friend, brother, uncle, and leader.” That’s because in the end – the actual end – relationship matters more than anything else.  

Late in 2016, we saw relationships deteriorate during the divisive presidential election.  People unfriended one another and even stopped communicating with their friends all together because of politics.  As a result, I often found myself praying over our congregation, asking that God would give us cool heads and warm hearts in a politically charged atmosphere.  I prayed that our love for one another would outweigh our differences politically, socially, and economically.  

As I prayed, I began to wonder how we could change our social-media driven isolation.  What would happen if we were to commit just a fraction of our time on Facebook to investing in real life, face-to-face relationships?  A few simple adjustments could go a long way in changing our relationships with one another as we embark on 2017.  

For example, if you are married, why not take a long walk with your spouse, and leave the phones at home?  Spend time actually listening to one other.  Besides, getting more physical activity is probably already on your list of New Year’s resolutions!

Put your phone away when you are out to dinner with friends or loved ones.  Be present right there in the moment with the people around you.

Consider your neighbors – do you know them?  Is there something that you can do to be truly helpful to them, especially those who are older or those who have young children?  Again, developing better friendships may also be one of your resolutions for 2017.

How about truly seeing people you come across every day – the gas station attendant, the server in the restaurant, the cashier at the store?  I myself am learning to look up from my phone, to say something genuinely kind, and to offer an extra generous tip to those who provide excellent service.  Kindness should be part of everyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

In each instance, you will find how seeing real people, instead of their online profiles, will quickly change your perspective on life itself and on what matters most.

Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived, described this phenomenon perfectly in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible,

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Aaron Salvato