Humans find it hard to live with one another even during the best of times. Some of us aren’t emotionally wired for intimacy. Some of us have crippled flaws that make relationships difficult. In fact, some of history’s greatest contributors have been relationship-challenged. As an adult, Isaac Newton shunned personal intimacy in all its forms, preferring his laboratory in the mind to living specimens. Henri Nouwen, who inspired many of us to move deeper into relationships with God and one another, had trouble himself developing intimacy with others. Relational disorders abound among creative people.
But we live in a culture that makes relationships harder while stimulating the hunger for relationships. The more globally the market economy structures itself, the more relentless the assault onall nonmarket social relations. This makes the church’s role in strengthening the social and ecological webs in which humans live all the more important. Unfortunately, the culture seems to be more aware of this than the church. The most highly visible people addressing the impoverishment of our relationship are relationship ministers” such as Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, and Oprah.
Consider some contrasts between what we experience and what we want to experience:
● Our parents played Monopoly with us. Today parents are more likely to teach their kids how to play Solitaire.
● One third of Americans today say they have been through a romantic breakup at least once in the past ten years.
● More than one in ten Americans spend Friday nights alone.
● And today, one in four Americans live alone in single person households than there are families comprising a husband, a wife, and one child.
We just keep breaking up. Our relationships mirror what is inside us. Wealth and fame, rather than freeing us up for better relationships, often tie us down. Materialism has become the top secular religion. Studies show that the more you identify with your possessions, the greater will be your foul moods, negative attitudes, and disabled relationships. In fact, the primary reason why the“happiness” charts fail to keep up with economic progress is because the good things in life are not good “things” but good relationships friends, family, loved ones.