A great New Year’s Resolution is to make the commitment to faithfully attend a house of worship at least twice a month. There is simply something magical about going to a synagogue or church where the people’s spirits are lifted up by means of singing, meaningful sermons and seeing the people who love us – even if we must practice social distancing.
One of the reasons some people stop visiting houses of worship is because some of the relationships that are formed are as shallow as the professional ones that we usually have at work. When one “attends” services without forming transparently meaningful relationships, sometimes it’s just better to stay home and listen to our favorite rabbi or pastor in our comfy pajamas!
The reason folks are generally afraid of forming meaningful relationships in houses of worship is because of the fear of disappointments. Since we’re afraid of getting “stabbed in the back” by those who are supposed to be part of our faith-family, we oftentimes choose to be nice, yet distanced with those who share our pews.
The key to enjoying meaningful relationships of faith is to learn how to properly classify the relationships that we experience. A relational disappointment usually happens when the expectations we projected upon certain people become unfruitful.
We need houses of prayer! With all the new challenges that our society is facing, we desperately need synagogues and churches that are filled with people who foster nurturing relationships that are foundational to a healthy society. The four basic relationships found in any society or social group can be categorized as: 1. Family; 2. Friends; 3. Fans; 4. Foes.
Family is a type of relationship that is based on affection and duty. Anyone can be a friend, but not everyone can be family. This type of relationship requires love expressed by reciprocal commitment.
Kindness and forgiveness are key aspects of this relationship. Even when we fail to fulfill certain expectations, we are willing to work with family members when considering the history, the affection and the commitment that identify its members.
Friendship is a type of relationship that is transactional in nature. No one actually “loses touch” with a friend; we simply lose interest in some friendships because that relationship no longer has the value that it once did.
Friendships are based on partnerships that are need-based. For instance, a person needs a listener, another needs a talker. Both partner amicably via shared interests and exchange what they bring for what they need. Commitment to the friendship depends on its transactional effectivity.
Fans are relationships that look like friendships, but that are dependent on projections, pedestals and entertainment. These are the type of folks that greet and hang around you when things are going well, but the moment you fall from their pedestal or you shatter their projections, they will shun, criticize, ridicule and consider you unworthy of their admiration.
Foes are relationships that are based on hatred, resentment and competition. A foe will always desire your demise, even if he or she is amicable. They are sometimes aggressive or passive, depending on time, place, interest or circumstance. The greatest foe is the one who calls you “friend.”
The good news is that once we learn how to recognize the relationships that surround us, we not only can avoid relational disappointments, we can foster transparently meaningful relationships that we need in order to live happy and prosperous lives. Happy New Year!
Rev. Juan C. Rivera of Bluffton is a Latino missions consultant and counseling therapist for Jamison Consultants.