Many of us find meaning in our relationships. They shape so much of our lives. One of the reasons that we end up being tired, overwhelmed and stressed out has to do with relationships and the number of them. We often join groups, teams, committees, or make volunteer commitments without much thought. Slowly our circles of relationships begin growing to the point that we know many people but lack true community.
I want you to think about every relationship you have (serving team at church, small group, PTA, children’s sports teams, work, neighbors) as a circle. You will have multiple people in a circle, but each commitment of community makes up a circle. Even if you think you don’t spend much time with it or you don’t have friends in it, like a child’s sports team, it’s a circle.
The reality is your circles all take up time. Each time you add a new circle or a circle expands because of the commitment that circle requires, you are pulling away from another circle, and you only have so much time to go around. Many times we haphazardly add circles and then lack community. For men, as we grow older, this becomes an enormous problem.
While men don’t do relationships the way women do, we need them just as much. It seems that as men get older, because of the time they give to their career and their children’s activities, they begin pulling away from friends to the point that when a man turns forty, he can’t think of anyone to call for a beer or to go fishing.
If that’s the case for you, it means you have allowed your circles to get out of control.
In our family, when we talk about adding a new circle, we also take one away. This limits the number of circles you are a part of. We believe community is that important. And yes, this means we will miss out on things, disappoint people, and even anger people.
The other reason we run out of space in our lives as it relates to relationships has to do with the ones we choose. While hopefully you start to think through how many friends and circles of relationships you can be in, this will change as you get older and your kids get older.
We often spend time in the wrong relationships.
We end up at meetings and gatherings that we don’t want to be. We have coffee or meals with people we’d rather avoid, but for some reason, when we got invited, we said yes.
It could be fear, a sense of duty, maybe our job demands we say yes. If you can say no, why don’t you?
A few years ago Katie and I made a choice that we would spend our time with people who were life giving. If you stressed us out, ran us down, were not life giving, we didn’t want to spend time with you. That may sound mean, but with a growing family, a growing church, we don’t have a ton of time to “just hang out” with whomever. We have to be intentional about our relationships.
This is something that doesn’t get talked about enough. We talk about being intentional with our schedules, money, careers and our kids, but what about who we spend time with?
The people you spend your time with, do they challenge you, encourage you, breathe life into you, spark you to greater levels in your life? If not, why are you giving them a lot of time and energy?
The flip side of this is sometimes you become that person for people. You are the spark, the energy giver. That is okay as long as that isn’t the primary source or your relationships.
When it comes to Breathing Room, you only have so much time and space. You only have so much relational energy and time on your calendar. You have to spend it wisely. You have to think through who gets it and prioritize.
*This is an excerpt from my brand new book, Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More. Click on the link to purchase it.