“You aren’t very sweet to me.”
“I don’t know, but you just aren’t.”
I overheard this exchange from a teenage daughter and her mom at a coffee shop last week. They both looked fashionably distracted: faces in their phones, similar summer outfits, mocha fraps sitting before them. They were not arguing. What were they doing?
Yesterday I felt uncomfortable in my thoughts, in my skin. I just had this overwhelming desire to cry or to scream. I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. In fact, everything appeared to be going pretty good. Sure, there were my usual concerns, but nothing drastic. Nothing to get me off my game.
I got on the treadmill, put on Pandora, and went for a walk to clear my head. It wasn’t until a few songs in that I started to cry. This emotional release felt both freeing and draining. I spoke unprocessed thoughts through tears.
As I have gotten older; or perhaps, wiser, I have remained quieter. I try to pick and choose words like flowers, wanting them to be fragrant offerings. And yet, I have noticed a disconnect, at times, with those I love most. It isn’t that anyone has said or done anything wrong, it is just an acute awareness that people are in different seasons and habitually distracted. The time we do share is often shared with other thoughts. And if someone is asked to do something, the other person appears tired and somewhat annoyed. In fact, we can be in the presence of someone … in the car … across a dinner table … on the couch … and not share a quality moment. Friend, this isn’t the sweet life. We may not be arguing, but what are we doing?
How do we force ourselves out of the habit of neglecting one another even though we could swear, at times, we are fully comfortable with one another? A few thoughts:
• Please put the phone down for blocks of time when you are around your loved ones. You can choose to free yourself from your phone in small intervals to invest big in relationships that mean the most to you.
• Listen and engage. Don’t talk over people or become snappy in your remarks. Allow others a comfortable space to express themselves without the fear of being criticized. Be active in your listening by engaging with eye contact, nodding, short replies, and asking questions to show that you are truly interested. Be truly interested without interrogating.
• Live your moment. If someone else is choosing to live their moment with you; well, consider yourself doubly blessed. Choose to add value to your moment. Even better, choose to add value to their moment. Slow down. Take in the conversation. Choose your words. Be kind. Be respectful. Be gracious. Love well as Christ loves you.
• Share. If someone asks you a question about your day or if you like something, try to give more than just a one or two-word answer. Even if rehashing your day is the last thing you wish to do, think as if your loved one has asked if you would please share the blanket on the couch with them because they are cold. You would share, wouldn’t you? When you share something, even as simple as answering the question, “How was your day?” — it gives the other person a sense of security, comfort and warmth. It is just one way you are letting the other person know you care by giving of your time and a thoughtful answer.
• Lean into scripture. Some have gotten out of the habit of trusting God. The first thing many do when waking up is look at a cellphone or another screen of some sort. We look to Google as our main resource instead of God. God is all about life and relationships. He is all about love. God is Love (1 John 4:8).
• Lighten up. Yes, life is hard. Yes, your to-do list will outlive you. And, yes, you are rightfully exhausted. OK, now what? You still need to try to laugh with your spouse about your difficult day. You still need to hug your teenager even when he doesn’t want to be hugged. And you still need to RSVP to some negative conversations with a resounding NO so you can say YES to positivity.
• Pray for one another and pray together. In the car with your children is a great place to pray (they have nowhere to go). Have them take the headphones off. Have them turn their phones screen side down. Even if they say they are not interested in praying, that doesn’t stop you from praying. Let them hear you. Let them hear you thanking God for His love and Jesus’ sacrifice. Let them hear you praising God for how thankful you are for your children. Your kids may not say anything, but your prayers will not be lost on them.
• Lastly, carry a thankful heart. When you carry a bucket of appreciation, your hands will be too occupied with tending to the bucket to tarry with emotions which can damage your freedom to fully love those you love in the time you have been blessed.
We may not be arguing, but what are we doing?
What are you choosing to do?
SGLY, dear readers.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. You can find her newly released books, “H.E.R.O. Faith” and “Bad Disciples” on Amazon. To submit feedback on SGLY, please contact news@amtrib. com. Follow Chartier on Facebook: facebook. com/ tiffanychartier and Twitter : @tiffanychartier