A friend recently asked me if I would like to write a weekly blog with her. I immediately thought, “I do not have time for that!” I work over 50 hours a week, own my own home, and am currently overinvested in enough reading and writing of my own, which leaves little time to take on more. Nonetheless, I chose not to immediately dismiss the idea, and now I sit here writing…
My reluctance to jump on board with blogging identifies an issue that I hope to address in my writing – we do not know how to live reflectively. Often times, we are focused on preparation for the future, such as: packing a lunch, buying groceries, paying the bills, or looking over our schedule for the following week. For others, a majority of time is spent in busyness. Regardless of the task, many people go-go-go without stopping. When work eliminates eight hours from the day, followed by an hour workout, supper, a movie with friends, and a little bit of reading, bedtime is all that is left. While watching a movie or reading a book may provide rest, neither provides reflection.
My average day is a perfect representation of what not to do. Today I worked from 7:00-3:30, went straight from work to mow a lawn, ate supper, and before I knew it, it was time to go to sleep. I tell you this because I want to avoid hypocrisy. As I will later show, the effects of failing to live reflectively are detrimental to relationship with others.
But seriously, we are all guilty of filling our lives so full that it becomes dysfunctional in one way or another. Ask yourself this: When was the last time I chose to sit down and reflect? For many – myself included – the thought of that question seems to be a waste of time. Our society tells us that the metric of measurement for success is progression. If progression is key, then reflection feels like regression, because it is merely backtracking. When we are taught to think that increasing the balance in our bank account, joining more activities, farming more acres, or working more hours is “success,” then taking an hour a day of reflection seems absolutely ludicrous.
However, reflection is the foundation of progression. Just today, I was in an argument with someone whom I care about deeply. A phone call and a few texts later, the person said, “Short of a text, you have very little to do with my life. You don’t like it? Too bad.” Regrettably, I chose not to reflect on this person’s words in hopes of better understanding what they were actually saying beneath the emotion filled text. Instead, I fired back a text that only resulted in regression.
But let’s break down what the person was actually saying. The person didn’t mean what was said, but rather was trying to tell me, “I miss you. I want to be a part of your life. I wish that we had more of a relationship.” Granted, it takes a lot of looking in order to see that hidden message in the words “You don’t like it? Too bad.” After my poor decision to fire back some choice words, I slowed down and thought about the situation. After reflecting, I remembered that the person whom I was arguing with had made several efforts to go out of their way to see me. One included a 50 mile round trip just to drop something off at my house that I needed. But in the moment, all I saw was somebody who was being difficult, rather than a loved one who was insecure and lonely.
Right or wrong, I have some mending to do. For this reason alone I have to learn to live more reflectively. And so do you. For the sake of our relationships, our mental health, and our impact within the community, we have to take time to stop. By doing so, we can progress to build stronger foundations with those around me. That way, we can learn to build relationship through perspective. Because arguing with emotion results in an unthoughtful text that causes regression. But perspective allows us to see the situation for what it really is. Perspective fosters the progression of relationships, which begins with stopping and reflecting.
Unfortunately, we all have broken relationships. My example only represents one problem among many. When schedules are packed, relationships are often the first to suffer. The cost of evaluating our lives by “progression” pushes our relationships to the way-side. After a long day of classes or work, it is easiest to snap at the people we love most, while treating others that we do not know with upmost respect. Regardless of who you are, there is surely a struggling relationship in your life, whether it is a child, a coworker, a roommate, or a significant other. Maybe it’s you. Regardless of who it is, we need to reshape the way that we view reflection. If we can be honest with ourselves, we suck at taking time to reflect. We all need to just stop. So give it a shot. Slow down. Take a walk. Close your eyes. Do what you need to do in order to live reflectively. Thanks for reading.
Jacob S. McLain