Ever wish you had paid more attention in seminary? Struggling with preparing a sermon? GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins wants to help pastors with useful resources to help them as they serve the Lord.
With more than a quarter century of pastoral leadership, Hawkins makes available some of his most popular sermon outlines for pastors, Sunday school teachers and other Bible study leaders. These free resources can help you as you prepare your sermon or lesson each week.
I have always been an early riser. It doesn’t matter whether I go to bed early or late, rested or worn-out, I am automatically awake usually by five o’clock every morning and never past six. You can set your watch by it. A few years ago when I was living in Florida, I flew from my home in Fort Lauderdale to the west coast where I was to speak at a convention in the San Francisco Bay area. And sure enough, I awoke the following morning before six o’clock. The only problem was I was three hours behind east coast time and the little red numerals on the clock radio in my hotel room greeted me with the news…2:55 a.m.! With zero success, I tried my best to go back to sleep. Finally, I reached for the television remote control and flicked on the tube. Now, it doesn’t matter where you are in America or what time of the day or night it might be, there are always two things you can get on television…world-championship wrestling and religious programming. And there they were in living color at three in the morning in Oakland. And, I might add, the world is asking the same question about them both — “Is it real or fake?”
Quite honestly, I could not take either one at that hour, so I got up and went to the little desk by the window to work on some things I had in my briefcase. I reached for the switch on the desk lamp, turned it on, and nothing happened. I don’t usually give up very easily, so I began to do a little detective work. I came to the brilliant conclusion that the lamp had only three possible points of connection. I began my investigation. First, I checked the source. It was plugged in alright and snugly fit. Next, I checked the switch. It was turned on. Now, the process of deduction was coming to fruition. If the lamp was connected at the source and at the switch there was only one other possibility. I then checked the socket. Bingo! The bulb was not screwed down tight enough into the socket to make a connection. I gave it a couple of turns and there was light.
Life is a lot like that lamp when we really think about it. We have all known people in our interpersonal relationships who seem to have little sparkle or shine about them. And we have all been connected with others who, by their very presence, light up our lives and the lives of all those with whom they touch. What is it about these people? Most generally, they have three points of connection. They are connected at the source, the switch, and the socket. There are only three connections or relationships in life. Add up all your relationships but they only boil down to three. We have a relationship with others, whether it be in the home, the office or the social arena. This is the outward connection, the socket, if you please. Here we make contact and touch the lives of others. Secondly, we have a relationship with ourselves. This is the inward connection, the switch. Here we connect with ourselves in order to have proper and positive self-respect, self-esteem, self-worth and self-love. Finally, we have a relationship with God. This is the upward connection, the source. This is what makes us different from all the other created order. We have the innate capacity to connect with our source, to be plugged into the power. And there we have it in a nutshell.
There are only three relationships in life…the outward connection, the inward connection and the upward connection. And the bottom line? We will never be properly related to others until we are properly related to ourselves and we will never be properly related to ourselves until we are properly related to God. In short, in order to shine and light up the lives of others in positive, productive interpersonal relationships, we need to be connected at the source, the switch and the socket. I like to call it the art of connecting. There is power in productive relationships.
We are made to communicate positively with each other. We are made for companionship. We are made to be connected to one another relationally. Way back in the beginning of the created order there was a phrase that continued to be repeated over and over. The Creator God paused for a moment at the conclusion of each part of His creation to say, “That’s good!”. He said it about the sun and the moon and the stars and the land and the sea and the vegetation and the fish and the birds and all His creation. Until, He made a man. And the next words we hear are, “Not good!”. “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He made him a companion, one with whom he could connect in interpersonal relationships. We are social beings who were created to be connected at the source, at the switch and at the socket. By our very nature we are made to relate with one another and much of our success in life is not determined by how much we know nor how high we may have climbed in material circles but in our ability to build positive, productive interpersonal relationships with others in the home, in the marketplace and in the social arena.
Two thousand years ago Paul of Tarsus laid hold of this threefold principle of relationships and cleverly used it in the initial paragraph of greeting to his friend, Philemon. He viewed himself as connected to the source. He was plugged into an unlimited outside power supply. He also saw himself as connected at the switch. He was turned on and felt positive about himself. He exuded self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence by finding his identity in the person of Jesus Christ. And the result of being plugged in and turned on was that, when he touched the lives of others, he brought a light which not only brightened their road but had a unique way of lightening their load at the same time.
The problem with so many interpersonal relationships today is a breakdown at one of these points of connection. Some of us have a very difficult time relating to others primarily because of the fact that we do not feel good about ourselves. Some have such low self-image and such fear of rejection that contact is never made with others and the light, which could mean so much to so many, is never turned on. Others of us continue to self-destruct in our relations with others because of how we really feel about ourselves. We often “project” what we really feel about ourselves into the lives of those around us. Still others seem to go from one relationship to another never escaping the short-term. Allow me to rewind the tape a moment and say what I have already said (and what I intend to repeat throughout this volume). We only have three relationships in life…the outward connection, the inward connection and the upward connection. The truth is, we will never be positively and productively related to others until we are properly related to ourselves. And, we will never be properly related to ourselves until we are properly related to our Source and understand how indescribably valuable we are to Him! This is the thrust of Paul’s ancient, yet up-to-date, letter to Philemon. Let’s begin the journey in the art of connecting. Where do we begin? We begin with:
I. The eternal connection: Touching our Source
In Paul’s own words of salutation, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (Philem. 3). The writer reveals much about his own connection with the Source in this initial greeting. As he penned these words he was writing in Greek, the universal written language of his first-century world. To indicate his own connection with the source he used the Greek word, patros, which we translate, “Father”. He saw himself in a father and son relationship with his source of power. The same word is used to describe the father in the old and oft-repeated story of the prodigal son. It is the heart-warming story of the boy who took his inheritance and left home for the bright lights of the big city. It didn’t take him long to lose it all, including his dignity and self-respect. What had promised to be a good time brought nothing but rip-offs, back alleys and eventually, unemployment lines. But the story has a happy ending. He decides to get up and go home. What will his father say? Or worse yet, what will his father do? The same dad who had earlier said, “I release you”, now says, “I receive you and what is more, I even reward you.” The boy’s dad didn’t have to release him. He could have blackmailed him with the inheritance money. He could have refused him. But there are times when a father knows what is best and still lets us go. He released him, but he never gave up on him. When the boy returned with a repentant heart, the father received him with open arms and rewarded him for finally doing what was right. All of that is wrapped up in this word “patros” or “father” which Paul uses to describe his own connection with his source in his letter to Philemon.
Father…that is a tough word for some people. In fact, for many it is the very word that is at the root of so many unresolved problems in interpersonal relationships. It is an all too common fact that many have a very difficult time relating to others due to their own feelings of inadequate self-confidence and self-worth, which are a direct result of unpleasant relationships with earthly fathers. But Paul is not talking about an earthly father here. He is visualizing himself in a relationship with his source of power like that of a loving and supportive father and son. This is a good time to pause a moment to ask a rather personal question — “How do you view yourself as being connected to an outside source of power?” Positive and productive relationships begin when we see Him as a father. He releases us to do our own thing. We are not puppets. We are people. Though this power source releases us, He never gives up on us. The very moment we are ready to connect with Him, He receives us with open arms and allows us to start all over again with a brand new beginning. He will become a father and a source of strength to all who come to Him, especially those of us who might not have had a positive experience with a father in the earthy realm. The eternal connection, touching the Source, begins when we, like Paul, see Him as the paternal one and view ourselves as sons and daughters.
Paul continues in his greeting to Philemon saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philem. 3). With these words, he now brings in an added dimension in his relationship with his source of power. Again, writing in Greek, he gives his source the name, “kurios”, which is translated into the English word “Lord”. He not only sees his source as the paternal one but now the prominent one. That is, the Lord. And, he not only views himself as a son but now a servant. Remember, he is writing this letter on interpersonal relationships to Philemon in regards to his relationship with a former servant, an employee, by the name of Onesimus. With these words Paul is subtly showing Philemon that we are all sons and servants in relationship with our Source. This awareness helps to bring our inward relationship with self and our outward relationships with others into proper perspective.
Having alluded to his relationship with his source as that of a paternal one to a son and a prominent one to a servant, Paul now goes a step further by referring to his source of power as a promised one. Indeed, in his language he calls Him “Christos” which we translate “Christ”. For Paul, a learned and aristocratic Jew, he found his source in the long awaited and anointed one, the promised Messiah, to whom the world had been looking and for whom it had been waiting. Throughout his life he had celebrated that high and holy day of atonement, Yom Kippur. In Hebrew, Yom Kippur means “the day of covering”. It was on Yom Kippur that the sins of the previous year were covered by a blood sacrifice. Today our Jewish friends have abandoned their blood sacrifices and seek their “covering” through “mitzvot” (good works). Paul, in referring to his source as “Christos” identifies Him as that promised one who came to become a “covering” for all our faults and failures and to bring us purpose, peace and a proper self-image.
What is Paul saying here about interpersonal relationships by revealing that his source of power is not simply some unknown, unnamed “force” or some positive mental attitude but the person of Jesus Christ, Himself? Perhaps this can best be illustrated with a mental trip back to my hotel in Oakland mentioned earlier. When it came time to check out of the hotel I did not pay cash upon my departure. I used a credit card. Think about that. The credit card in your wallet has no real intrinsic value in and of itself. It is simply a piece of plastic. But the hotel clerk accepted my credit card as if it were cash. Why did she do that? It was a forerunner of the true payment that was sure to follow. The actual payment came a few days later when I received my statement in the mail and paid my bill. Until then the credit card simply “covered” the purchase. As such the old covenant between God and man with its sacrificial system “covered” the faults and failures of those who believed in the Promised One who was coming. And He came! He made the final payment for our “covering” with the sacrifice of His own life and the shedding of His own blood on a Roman cross of execution. Consequently, through Him our relationship with the Father has been purchased and secured. It is no wonder our Jewish friends have abandoned their sacrificial system for the last two thousand years. There is no need for a credit card. The bill has been paid.
Paul could speak with authority to others about interpersonal relationships because he was well connected. He related well with others because he possessed a positive self-image and he had a positive self-image because he related to God. He saw his source as a paternal one and himself as a member of the family. He saw his source as a prominent one and thus he viewed himself as one under a higher authority. Also, he saw his source as the promised one and this set him free to find in Him his true identity. This brought him indescribable value as an individual and a high sense of self-worth. Bottom line…if we are not properly plugged in at the source the light will never shine for ourselves or others.
Remember, there are only three relationships in life. There is the upward connection where we touch our source, the inward relationship where we touch our self and the outward relationship where we touch our society. It is time to rewind once more. We will never be properly related to others until we have a positive relationship with ourselves. And, we will never have a positive, productive self-image until we are properly related to our Source of power, the Lord Jesus Christ. With this thought in mind Paul continues his initial greeting to Philemon by addressing:
II. The internal connection: Touching our self
Paul recognized the importance of possessing a positive self-image in his relationships with others. What is self-image? We are not referring to such things as self-centeredness, self-exaltation or selfishness. Self-image has to do with the way we see ourselves. It has to do with such things as self-acceptance, self-worth, self-love, self-appreciation and self-respect. It is the way we image or view ourselves. In my opinion, this is the very core of many of society’s ills. Everyday we read in our newspapers about problems brought on by such things as mental illness, drug addiction, violence, prostitution and other types of social disorders. These are most often merely the fruits of a much deeper root of low self-esteem, self-respect and self-worth. A large segment of a generation of young people have now been raised with little self-esteem and it is no surprise when they image themselves in such a low fashion that disastrous results occur. It is impossible to relate positively with others if we do not feel good about ourselves.
In his own words, Paul refers to himself as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philem. 1) and in so doing reveals much about his own connection with himself. As he penned these words in Greek, he chose an interesting word (desmios) to describe himself as a prisoner. Indeed, he was, at the time of his writing, an actual prisoner of Nero and the Roman Empire. But, in actuality, he saw himself first and foremost as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ”. It is of note, that in writing to Philemon he does not say he is a “prisoner of Rome”. Yes, indeed they are the ones who incarcerated him. They kept the watch over him. They locked him in his cell. But they had only a small part in the drama. Paul saw himself as a prisoner of his Source. He was not there by accident. His life had been placed in God’s care and control and while everyone else thought he was a prisoner of Rome, he knew better.
Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying about himself here. This is no self-defacing statement reflecting the writer’s low self-image. No! Read the letter carefully. He does not refer to himself as a “prisoner for Jesus Christ” but a “prisoner of Jesus Christ” indicating he is one whom the Source of all power has brought under His authority.
Proper, positive and productive interpersonal relationships develop from the inside out. They not only have an eternal connection but an internal connection. Like a lamp that gives light, they are not only plugged in at the source, they are turned on at the switch. This process of developing our relationships from the inside out is a process I refer to as “being comes before doing” for what we do and how we act are determined by who and what we are. For example, if you want to have a more fulfilling marriage, be a more considerate husband or wife. Begin with yourself. If you want to have a more cooperative teenager, be a more consistent, understanding and loving parent. If you want to have a mom or dad you consider to be more fair with you, be the kind of son or daughter you ought to be. Dust off those old words about honoring and obeying your parents. If you want to have greater opportunity for advancement in the workplace, be the most efficient, hardest working and the most pleasant and cooperative worker in the office. In short, if you want to have a true friend, be a true friend. Paul realized that in order to have Philemon as a friend, he must first be a friend to Philemon. It is a two-way street.
When we speak of being in touch with the self or being connected with the self we are not referring to a new-age concept of self-improvement or self-awareness. Quite the contrary and just the opposite! Jesus of Nazareth put it like this, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it” (Matt. 10:39). A powerful and positive self-image does not come from a pseudo, pumped up mental attitude. It results from being connected with our source in such a way that we realize how valuable we are to Him. Now, what does all of this talk about self-image have to do with Paul’s statement about being a “prisoner of Jesus Christ”? There is a sense in which all of the creation should see itself as “prisoners” of the Creator. When we are held captive by His love it has a liberating effect upon our own self-image. By the way, everyone of us is a prisoner of someone or something. Some are prisoners of their own passion. Others are prisoners of their own popularity. Still others are held captive by pride. Some are prisoners of success and others of a particular person. The way to positive feelings of genuine self-worth is to become, in the words of Paul, “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”.
This idea of losing ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to really find ourselves is in diametric opposition to most world views today. This is why so many are living such confused and complicated lives. Many have “bought into” the superficial and deceptive message of new age awareness in their quest to “find themselves”. There is only one way to find ourselves and many miss it because it is paradoxical. In the words of the one who changed not only the calendar by His presence but the course of human history itself, “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.” All of this is in this Greek word Paul chooses to describe himself “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”. Paul was the single most successful people-strategist of his day and it was because he was overflowing with self-confidence. He felt good about himself. He had purpose in life and a spirit of conquest about him. He was positively connected with his inner being. How? He was connected with the source. He was plugged into power and turned on so that this supernatural winsomeness and warmth flowed into him and through him into the lives of those with whom he came in contact.
Everything finds the strength to go on in its source. Paul, like a river, flowed from his source. If we are only connected with our self, if the self is our source, then we have nothing more than a shallow self-awareness and must constantly be meditating monotonously or pumping ourselves up like some old-fashioned surface pump well behind an old farm house. Some people today go from one self-help guru to the next, one tape to the next, one book to the next, one seminar to the next. Pump. Pump. Pump. But when we find our proper self-image at our source it is like an artesian well. You do not have to pump an artesian well. You just turn it on and it flows because it is dug deep into the ground and has tapped into an underground river as its source. This is what Paul is saying to Philemon and to us as he talks about the internal connection, touching the self. The truth is we are all prisoners of something and how much better to be a prisoner of the source of all things Himself. This is where true self-image and self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect are found, not in the emotional or the physical realm but in the spiritual.
In subsequent letters to other individuals Paul said such things as “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” He once said, “Nothing is impossible, only believe.” In a letter to his friends in Rome, he reminded them that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” How could he make such statements? He was connected at the source and thus he was confident in the self. He lost his life in the love of his source and consequently, he found it. It was a growing experience. In his earlier years he wrote some friends in Galatia in 49 A.D. and referred to himself as “an apostle”. I can see him now as he sat in his chair and penned those words. Five or six years later he wrote some friends in Corinth and in the salutation of the letter referred to himself as “the least of the apostles.” Five years later in 60 A.D. he wrote some other friends in Ephesus and referred to himself as “less than the least of all God’s people”. A year or so later he wrote our letter to Philemon referring to himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”. And finally, a few years later and near the end of his life, he wrote a moving letter to his young associate and understudy, Timothy, and called himself “the worst of sinners”. Most of the world would not recognize this as much of a proper self-image but most of the world does not look beyond the surface. The more this man lost his life in the love of his source of strength the more he found it.
Much of our low self-esteem comes from the influence of those around us. In some cases our parents and in other cases our peers. But what is most important in recovering damaged emotions and low self-esteem is not what others think about us but what God, the ultimate source of all power thinks about us. And He loves us…just like we are! When we, through faith, become His child He says the same thing of us He said of His own son, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”. God’s son did not leave His throne to come down to die for someone of no worth or little value. You are indescribably valuable to Him. And, when you awaken to this realization you will be well on the road to a productive and positive self-image which, incidentally, is only found in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Moses, the ancient Jewish leader, was singled out to become the emancipator of his people he responded with a question, “Who am I?” No question could be any more pointed in coming to the heart of the matter. I am a spirit made in the image of God Himself and the only way to really touch myself is to know God through His son, Jesus Christ, who is Himself the “express image” of the Father. What is the bottom line in the art of connecting, this power that comes in positive relationships? We will never have self-worth until we see how valuable we are to the Father and get connected through the “new birth” with our source of life Himself. Having dealt with the importance of being plugged into the source and turned on at the switch, Paul now continues with the necessity of being well connected at the socket so the light can shine.
III. The external connection: Touching our society
We are social beings who, by our very nature, are made to interact and relate with one another. Like a lamp, we receive expression when we are connected with our source. When we are in touch with ourselves in a positive and productive way, this power begins to flow through us and then out of us touching others and lighting their way. It is not enough to be plugged in and turned on if we are not connecting with others. We need each other. God made us to relate to one another in mutually beneficial ways. Because Paul was properly related to his God and to himself, he related to others in four ways. In the salutation to his letter he begins by saying, “To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home” (Philem. 1–2). He sees himself in these external relationships as family, friends, fellow workers and fellow soldiers.
We need to see each other as family. Paul did. And this was one of the secrets to his success. He built a family consciousness and family cohesiveness with those who were in his inner circle. He speaks of his associate, Timothy, as a “brother” and refers to Apphia (most probably Philemon’s wife) as a “sister”. Paul thought of these as not merely friends but members of the family. In fact, a careful reading of the letter reveals the constant repetition of the personal pronoun “our”. For example, “our brother…our dear friend…our fellow worker…our sister…our fellow soldier” and so on. This was not by accident. It is vitally important in our relationships to build a spirit of community and camaraderie. True friendships are really family affairs.
Following Paul’s example, we need to see each other as friends as well as family. He addresses Philemon at the outset with much affection and calls him a “dear friend”. Genuine friendship is like a beautiful flower. Our relationship with others is the fruit. Our relationship with ourselves is the shoot. Our relationship with God, our source, is the root. It is simply another way of saying what we have been saying all along. We will never be positively and productively related with others until we develop a proper self-image and we will never have a confident self-image without being properly related to our Source of power, the Lord Jesus Himself.
Paul referred to Philemon not only as a dear friend but also as a “fellow worker”. As he penned his letter in Greek he chose an interesting word, synergos, to describe this unique relationship with his friend. It is a compound word that literally means to “work with”. We get our English word, synergism or synergy, from this identical Greek word. Synergism is the combined action of different agents producing a greater effect than the sum of the individual actions. In more common terms, it simply means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Take two pencils for an obvious object lesson to grasp this amazing truth. If you hold them together and try to break them it takes a significantly greater amount of pressure than would be exerted in an effort to break each individually. With synergism one plus one does not necessarily equal two. It equals three or more. In using this word we translate “fellow worker,” Paul is showing us how much we really do need each other and how valuable we can become to one another when we are together. This dynamic power in interpersonal relationships is spoken of in the Bible when it says, “One can chase a thousand but two can chase ten thousand.” This is synergism in action. Yes, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Jesus of Nazareth once said, “If two of you shall agree on touching anything you can have it.” The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, put it like this, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9–12).
Paul was a people-person and realized the importance of working together with others toward a common goal. Effective interpersonal relationships are not the result of competition but cooperation. “Fellow-workers” share each other’s dreams, work together in unity toward the same goal and share in each other’s victories as though they were their own.
There is a dynamic spiritual power released when two people work together synergistically. Synergism is what takes place when a father and a mother connect in parenting. This is a vital principle in our effort to raise positive kids in a negative world. If parents are not together in discipline significant damage can be done to the upbringing of a child. However, when they connect and stand together, when one always speaks and acts in unison with the other, the child soon gets the message and powerful and positive results take place. Synergism is what takes place when a teacher and a student connect on an assignment. They become “fellow workers” and learning takes place. Synergism is what takes place when a quarterback and a wide receiver connect on a pass pattern on the football field. It takes place when fellow workers brain-storm together and new ideas and plans begin to take shape. The epitome of synergism takes place when a bride and a groom leave the wedding altar to become one. Paul’s idea of being a fellow worker synergism in our more modern vernacular) is an indispensable principle in managing and maintaining positive and productive relationships with others whether they be found in the home, office or social arena. When we are truly connected to the source and the self we can be connected to the society in which we live by not only relating to those in our sphere of influence as family or friends, but as fellow workers.
Paul goes yet a step further in his description of interpersonal relationships by referring in his letter to Philemon’s son, Archippus, as a “fellow soldier”. Again, he uses a very descriptive Greek word sustratiootees) which carries with it the connotation of a fellow combatant, a comrade in arms, one who faced the same dangers and fought in the same fox hole in the same conflict. As believers who are connected to the same source we are all in the same “army”. Problems develop in some relationships due to the fact that many do not relate to one another as fellow soldiers involved in the same struggles and looking toward the same victory. There are a lot of one man armies in the marketplace today. Far too often when someone gets wounded in the battle, it is his “friends” who are quick to finish him off with criticism, gossip or judgment. Positive, productive long-term relationships are the result of seeing those with whom we come in contact not only as friends or family or, even fellow workers, but also as fellow soldiers in the fight.
Life, from beginning to end, is about relationships. It is about our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, and our relationship with others around us. God, our very source, is the initiator of all our relationships. In order to connect with us, He laid aside His glory, humbled Himself and came to where we are. He clothed himself in a garment of human flesh and walked among us for thirty-three years in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He walked with us, talked with us, ate with us, slept with us and yet He was not contaminated by our sin. Why did He come? In order that we might be connected through Him to our Source. And the result? A relationship with God Himself, a positive self-image and productive interpersonal relationships with others.
Thus, as is the case so often, the greatest lessons of life are in the small, seemingly insignificant and often inconvenient “interruptions” of life. In retrospect, I’m thankful the desk lamp did not come on in my hotel room in Oakland at three o’clock that particular morning. If it had I would have missed a magnificent lesson that has enabled me to relate better to my wife and children as well as those with whom I work and play. We are made to shine. But until we are plugged into the source we do not really live, we simply exist. Turn on the switch and let God’s love and power flow through you in order that you might brighten the road of all with whom you come in contact. The art of connecting begins with a simple carpenter from Nazareth who went about doing good and positively relating with people from all walks of life. He is our source. He reaches out to the rejects. He defends the dejected. He loves the lonely. He challenges the contented. He possesses a supernatural self-confidence. As He walked among us He knew He was important as a person and had important things to do. And the miracle He called the “new birth” is the fact that He wants to take up residency in our hearts and impart that same supernatural God-confidence to us that we might see how important we really are and realize that we, too, have important things to do. There is no genuine positive self-image nor productive self-worth apart from Him. We can come into a relationship with our Creator through Him today and thus begin the great adventure in…the art of connecting!
1. Inspection…Make a personal inspection of the points of contact in your life. Are you productively connected with others in the external connection? How many on-going, long-termed relationships have you maintained? Are you positively connected with your own ego in the internal connection? Do you feel good about yourself? Do you possess self-confidence and a sense of character? Are you connected with your Source in the eternal connection? Are you related to Him in such a way that He imparts a supernatural purpose and peace to your life? If inspections are good for automobiles and physical examinations, they are also beneficial for interpersonal relationships, for we will never be properly related to others without a sense of positive self-worth and this only comes in being properly related to the Source of all power.
2. Rejection…Many of us reject others in our interpersonal relationships because, in reality we are rejecting ourselves. Is it possible that your problem is not at the socket of external relationships after all, but, at the switch of the internal relationship? Self-rejection can spring from the circumstances of our birth. Some blame their relational failures on their heritage and heredity. How many times have we heard someone say, “I lose my temper because my dad did. And besides that we both have red hair! It is in my DNA I inherited it.” And consequently, some of us resign ourselves to self-rejection because of our birth. Self-rejection can also result from our beginnings. That is, the manner in which we were raised as children. Indeed, child abuse, whether physical or emotional, is at the root of much self-rejection and low self-image. Some of us began life with emotionally ill parents who never touched or showed love or who, perhaps, demanded more than we could ever deliver. Self-rejection can also arise out of the premium our society places on beauty. Physical attractiveness is at a premium in American culture today. Since so much pseudo value is placed on good looks, many reject themselves because they do not have them. So much of our modern culture tells us in a thousand ways that self-image is built around being beautiful and many of us have bought into this lie. And the result is self-rejection. Anyone who tries to find self-worth in outward appearance is headed for trouble. Think about it. Sags and wrinkles are just around the corner. Bake your body on the beach and jiggle it in the gym all you want, it is not going to matter for very long. Self-esteem is not to be found in the physical. It is only temporary. Self-rejection can also be the result of brains, or lack of them. Some of us feel dumb or stupid because our I.Q. is not as high as others and, thus, we develop a low self esteem because of it. Rejection is a problem in the art of connecting. Could it be when you inspect the matter that self-rejection is more at the heart of the matter than you would like to admit?
3. Projection…As we continue with our inspection we discover that projection logically follows rejection. When we suffer from self-rejection we are prone to “project” our own feelings of low self-worth into others resulting in the destruction of relationships. The fact is, the way we really feel about ourselves will greatly influence the way we relate to others. Psychologists call this “projection”. It is the faulty projecting of our own life qualities and shortcomings into the lives of others. We are all prone to do this whether we realize it or not. How does it work? If I possess insecurity and a low degree of self-confidence, I can become threatened by others and project this attitude into them. If I live in self-pity I project a martyr’s complex always portraying myself as the innocent victim. If I am unethical and thus have little self-respect, I project that into my relationships with others in such a fashion that I am suspicious and feel someone is always out to rip me off. If I possess a feeling of uselessness with little self-worth, I project that into others and begin to think they are of little value. If I am filled with self-anger and have no self-respect or self-love, I project that into others and frequently lash out at them in uncontrolled anger. Many of us give our true selves away through projection. Think about it and face up to it. If you make a pattern out of putting others down, most generally, the root cause is low self-esteem. If you make it a practice to always be critical of others, the root cause is low self-esteem. You show me a man or woman who makes it a habit to continually build others up and encourage them and I will show you someone who possesses a positive self-image because they have discovered the art of connecting.
4. Correction…Genuine inspections always lead to corrections. How is it possible to correct a lifetime of faulty interpersonal relationships? Once someone asked Jesus of Nazareth, “Of all the commandments in Torah, hundreds of them, which is the greatest of them all?” And His reply? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself!” And with this answer He reveals to us the secret to the art of connecting, building positive and productive, interpersonal relationships. It is impossible to love our “neighbor” in the same way we love ourselves if we have no self-love, self-respect or self-worth. In this greatest of all commandments the Lord Jesus speaks of three points of contact. We are to be connected with our source. In His words, “Love the Lord God with all your heart”. Secondly, we are to be connected with our self. In His words, “Love yourself”. Finally, we are to be connected with our society. Again, to use His own words, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. So, how can we begin to correct an improper self- image? We must become proactive. And what does this modern “buzz word” mean? It is the opposite of being reactive. In other words, we must cease blaming our relational failures on others and begin to take personal responsibility. Someone has said that the word “responsibility” comes from two words: response and ability. It is the ability to choose your response. You have it and correction begins when you begin to use it. You do not have to go on in life without positively relating to others around you. You have the ability to choose your response. People with positive and productive self-image recognize that ability and become proactive by refusing to continue blaming other people and other things for interpersonal relational problems. Some of us spend an entire lifetime simply “reacting” to outward circumstance and situations. Correction does not take place with most of the self-help volumes on bookstore shelves. Many of them simply manipulate the circumstance into short-term solutions.
Long-term positive and productive interpersonal relationships result from being connected not only to others, but to ourselves and our Source, the Lord Jesus. We will never be properly related to others until we are properly related to ourselves possessing self-worth and self-respect. And this does not take place until we are connected to our Source through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. This is…the art of connecting!
- The Art of Connecting: Accountability: Don't leave home without it! - Part 6
- The Art of Connecting: Crossing the Rubicon of relationships - Part 5
- The Art of Connecting: Burying the hatchet - Part 4
- The Art of Connecting: Win-win...the only way to play - Part 3
- The Art of Connecting: A pat on the back - Part 2
- The Art of Connecting: Part 1