The first in a
that explores how we can bridge the gap between living on the surface and connecting in a way that deep down, we're desperate for.
As you know from my recent post, this God-life is still a relatively new thing for me. Prior to that I knew a lot of stuff about God and Jesus in theory, just as someone who studies knows how to pass a test – but living this out in my daily life was a completely foreign concept. I tried to keep the rules and failed miserably, and that’s because, contrary to popular belief, a full life is not about keeping rules nor about being perfect. As one of my favourite speakers, Christine Caine, says:
"This is a heart transformation, not a behaviour modification, programme"
So how do we shift from the futile task of behaviour modification to a true heart [life, perspective] transformation? The answer has many layers, one of which (in my humble opinion) is our ability to truly connect with people: an honest, open, ‘laying my cards on the table’, type of connection. Living this out is a continuous journey of learning and experimentation; but to make life really count, it is essential.
It can also be incredibly frightening.
But whether I like it or not, the truth is that we aren’t designed to live life in isolation to each other. Connection deepens our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to each other; two of the biggest factors that dictate the quality of our lives. In short, learning to be open and to connect unlocked a Blue Ocean in my human experience.
Deep calls to the deep
Outside of running this website, I love learning about how businesses make their mark on the world. One of the ways I do this is through reading. ‘Blue Ocean’ is a term coined by professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, in their landmark book, ‘Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create an uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant’. A Blue Ocean is an open space of opportunity, free from the struggle of competing with other businesses in your industry. (This is as a highly recommended read, get it here). I believe that living transparently unlocks an emotional Blue Ocean within ourselves, giving us a greater glimpse into a life full of purpose.
I think that in some way or another, we yearn for people to see us as we really are and how our experiences have shaped us. It can be tiring and lonely to feel like you always have to give the shiniest, best looking version of yourself; sometimes you simply want to just be. Psalm talks about the deep in us calling to the deep in God (Psalm 42), and assuming our relationship with God is intended to the blueprint for our relationships with each other, then I suspect that this ‘deep’ in us also calls to the ‘deep’ in others.
While this sounds great in theory, it's easy to struggle with actually doing this; revealing a deeper layer of ourselves. In this series, I’ll explore some of the things that prevent us from unlocking our Blue Oceans and I hope it encourages you to live life a bit more transparently, give more of yourself to others and as a result, receive more.
No risk, no reward
As humans we tend to like being comfortable, minimising the risk of physical or emotional pain. I used to spend a lot of energy measuring the risk of certain interactions and trying to adjust my behaviour accordingly. The thought of being completely ‘out there’, metaphorically naked, makes a lot of us nervous, especially as we can't always predict whether we'll be accepted.
Also, we live in a world where ‘trust no one’ is the order of the day, a mantra I see echoed across social media; a way of self-preservation. On the surface this might make sense but it actually holds us back from the large, full life of adventure that is out there. It also impacts your physical and mental health, as David says:
When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long – Psalms 32:3
I’m determined to watch steps and tongueso they won’t land me in trouble.I decided to hold my tongueas long as Wicked is in the room.“Mum’s the word,” I said, and kept quiet.But the longer I kept silenceThe worse it got—my insides got hotter and hotter.My thoughts boiled over;I spilled my guts. - Psalms 39:1-3
By contrast, speaking openly and living transparently can result in life-changing connections. Still on the example of David, after he spoke with Jonathan;
‘an immediate bond was forged between them […] from that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend’ – 1 Samuel 18:1
Throughout the rest of David’s story you see that Jonathan plays a pivotal role in his career and literally saves his life of multiple occasions. They change each other’s lives for the better. Taking cues from aspirational people such as David (and Jesus, who we’ll discuss in coming weeks), how can we think that it is possible to thrive (not merely survive) in life without meaningful, deep connection?
I know that sharing carries a risk: the risk of being vulnerable with no guarantee of reciprocation or even support. But without taking that risk, we forgo the possibility of a rewarding relationship; a relationship that has the potential to usher us into a greater sense of self, joy, mutual understanding and all that other good stuff. It’s what we need the most. Brian Houston puts it this way in his book Live, Love, Lead:
Living transparently means running to a safe space, fighting every urge to hide away under a rock. For some reason isolation seems like the best option for self protection. But if it was truly healthy for us, then it’s unlikely that it would be used as a form of punishment and psychological control by detention centres around the world. (Note – this is specifically in relation to isolation and cutting ourselves off, quiet time with ourselves and God is still essential to this full life that we’re after).
Brian also touches on how your environment plays an important part in this, as not all relationships or conversations will unlock our Blue Ocean in a constructive way. When you’re in a positive environment, how close you are to the people you share with isn’t always important because it’s a safe and confidential space where you're welcome to be your true self. In a world of ‘trust noone’ this seems pretty impossible, but if you look closely enough, there are pockets of society where this is the reality.
For example, last week I went to the monthly Sisterhood Connect group hosted by my friend Seun (this is part of the Hillsong Sisterhood, read more about it here). During the session we spoke candidly about vulnerability with God, friendship and relationships. There were about 25 of us in the room and many of us didn’t know each other well, and some of us were meeting for the very first time. Despite this, we brought our whole selves to the conversation, sharing some things that we had never shared with any one else before. Being in a positive, life-giving environment helped us to verbalise experiences that had not previously been discussed; and being able to verbalise our thoughts in life puts issues out in the open.
It's the beginning of the healing process.
It's amazing that there's a space for us to come as we are; a place where we didn’t have to bring the airbrushed, idealised, ‘I woke up like this’ version of ourselves. Ialso realised that in relationships, we can never access this level of ‘deep’ unless we are willing to take the first bold step and offer it. The open environment was a product of the extent to which we were willing to live transparently. Our Blue Oceans had deepened. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore other aspects of this topic and how to expand your emotional Blue Ocean. I'm a huge advocate for this because I've have seen how transformative it's been for me in these two short years. So this week I challenge you to pick up the phone, write that email or arrange that coffee date and give someone a glimpse of your true self.