The Best Thing I Learned About Relationships This Year

My brother Matt drinks more coffee than anyone I know.

He and his better half Jessica have gathered a really neat community of young adults together called the Porch at their church in Fort Meyers, and from what I can tell he lives at Starbucks getting work done meeting with friends all day long.

Once a month, Matt and his team run an event I knew as a “discipleship workshop.” Every time I’ve received the invite I’ve been (conveniently) busy.

Not that I didn’t think it could be a good event to attend, in fact I really like talking about discipleship and what it looks like today. 

The way Jesus built his platform through a rag-tag crew of 12 guys from less-than-extraordinary circumstances is fascinating. He invited very average men to be his closest friends and took them on a wild journey for 3 years as he invited prostitutes, sinners and everyone else around into a relationship with his Father. The disciples screwed up (a lot) but he kept them close and prepared them for the day he would no longer be around.

It was those same men who built the foundations of the Church that’s still introducing the world to Jesus today. I’d say it worked. 

The “workshop” part is what sent me sprinting in the other direction. Workshops in my mind are an excruciatingly dull practice of nodding your head along while someone rambles aimlessly to a silent crowd. You leave with a few catchy phrases that sound good on twitter and return to life as normal. Yawn.

On top of that, did I trust a workshop run by the same guy who convinced me multiple times he could fly (I just had to close my eyes) when I was five years old? I love my brother, but surely he didn’t have anything to teach me I haven’t heard before. 

Hello, Middle Child Syndrome.

But on this particular weekend, there was a fun road trip involved and I had run out of excuses to not attend. We set off on I-10 towards Fort Meyers with the miniature van packed with friends and a Spotify playlist full of traveling tunes. 

Fortunately, Matt and the team were working with a different picture of “workshop” than I had imagined. There was some listening, yes. But 95% of the weekend was spent in a group of 15 or so processing together how to become more like Jesus when it came to our relationships.

When we first arrived in the room, some ground rules were laid out.
Guidelines for our interaction with others in the circle.

As someone who generally detests rules, this was frustrating.
I kept my frustration in my head.

“Why in the world are there rules? I hate rules.”
“You’re going to tell me what I can and cannot say here? Dumb.”

Some rules were simple:

Listen: Value one another during discussions by listening to what’s being shared.
Confidentiality: What’s said in the group stays in the group. 
Sharing: Be sensitive about the amount of time you share. 

But there was one I wasn’t prepared for:

Make “I” statements: It’s easy to talk about the issues of others, but for our purposes we want you to put yourself on the table. Try to use “I” statements rather than “them,” “the church,” “us,” “we,” etc. 

As long as we were working together in that room, we had to do our absolute best to only make statements concerning “I”.

I was confused and slightly annoyed, but played along with the game.

And as the next few hours progressed, I was amazed at how this simple rule changed our interactions. Broad sweeping statements about what we are like meant nothing, instead I had to own up to what I am like.

A massive social wall had fallen.

“You know, us Christians often have trouble not being in control all the time.” Became,I have a hard time not being in control all the time.

“Guys just aren’t good at being very empathetic.” Was now,I’m not always great at being empathetic towards others.

“We all have approval issues at some level.” Turned intoI’m often not satisfied with the approval of God, so I seek approval from the praise of the crowd.

No longer could I hide behind the wall of “we,” instead I had to speak the fully exposed truth about myself to people who I had met only an hour ago. There was a world of difference in our conversation. 

As I contemplated this little rule, I couldn’t help but think I’m actually designed for something greater than we.

I’ve been created with an intense desire to be known.

Designed to make real, personal relationships with others. The kind of relationships that move past walls of insecurity, false confidence and small-talk. It’s way more uncomfortable and sometimes painfully awkward. 

But life is so much better when I feel known by my closest friends, not when they know what I think about everyone else. 

Want to break down a wall in your relationships?
Start making more “I” statements.

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