“OK, thank you,” I chirp tersely in my leave-me-alone-can’t-you-see-I’m-working voice. Five seconds later, I
realize what I did…no, what I AM doing. I have no idea what my husband said, what he wanted, what he’s feeling, or even if he smiled or frowned. Nor did I care. That’s not the first time I preemptively stopped conversation, empathy and connection with someone I loved in the last 24 hours. Not that I’m cruel, or abusive, or even short-tempered. On the contrary, I’m cheerfully accomplishing more in one day than I usually do in a week. I’m also cold and distant, distinctly not synchronizing with anyone’s feelings ( not even my own!), and driven to accomplish my overwhelming to-do list. In short, my “relational circuits” are off.
Relational circuits? Yes: those emotional, social, and neurological pathways that keep us connected to God and others. “RCs” are the trails and corridors that let us value people, attune to them (and notice them attune with us), work with them well and function as a team. Relational circuits help us lead with sensitivity, respond with flexibility, and process pain when life triggers or traumatizes us. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that relational circuits are what enable us to perceive and cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing. I can’t really “do what the Father is doing” (John 5:19) if I can’t respond to the Holy Spirit, and if my RCs are off, I don’t really want to respond to anyone!
What about Jesus? Did He care about relational circuits? Certainly He never used those words, but it’s impossible to love someone well without empathy, attunement, sensitivity and care. When my relational circuits are off, I don’t care about people as people; I see them as problems to be solved or pieces to a puzzle, but certainly not as cherished sons and daughters of the Most High God.
The very people Jesus tussled with most were the Pharisees and my suspicion is that their relational circuits were definitely off almost all the time. The Pharisees were legalistic, judgmental, critical, evaluative, and consumed with external appearances. They valued rules over relationship and Jesus confronted them at every turn. That’s not a comforting thought as I bulldoze through my to-do list, shoving people, conversations and interactions off to the roadside.
How ironic. Here I sit, writing about relational circuits while my relational circuits are off. Huh. How to turn them back on?
Chuckling, I shake my head and notice the gorgeous irises my husband left on my desk before dinner. I did say thank you. At least that’s a start.
“Okay, Jesus, let’s begin again.” I breathe a quick prayer and think through the mental checklist of ways that work to reset my emotional temperature.
Appreciation. Appreciating God is probably the best route, but gratitude for anything is good, as long as I can really feel it.
Prayer. It’s hard to be ornery if
we’re really talking to God and being honest about what we feel. After all, he already knows how we feel.
Empathy. Finding someone to be with
you in your pain; someone who will understand, empathize and listen.
Laughter. Real, genuine, kind and goodhearted humor (not the sarcastic kind) can help jump start our brains back to connection.
Singing. Singing worship or sacred music, especially in a group. This may not work for everyone, but it certainly helps me focus on what’s good and true. Neurologically, singing together is a powerful relationship builder, both with God and others.
My RC light flickers on as I print the page. I’m smiling now, the real kind of smile, as I toss my inner Pharisee to the floor and walk upstairs to thank my husband for those lovely irises.