Guest-post by Hudson Byblow*
The other day, I was talking with someone on my cellphone and my phone unexpectedly died. I was without a charger, and just before a choir practice. I thought to myself, “I’ll just call them afterwards.” I went on with my day and completed the task of choir practice. Then I went home and found a charger, charged my phone, and then finally sent a courtesy note to the person I was talking to.
Though this particular case may seem trivial, what struck my heart afterwards was that by disregarding the courtesy to get back to them in a timely way (when I easily could have), I “told” them that something else was more important. Indeed, there are urgent tasks that require a delayed response, but I am not talking about those instances. I am instead talking about my choice to become busy with something instead of choosing to attend to relationship.
This struck me so profoundly because this was the exact pattern of behavior that I had been trying to break for so many years.
The Deeper Root
People are not things. They are more important than things. And they know when they are being ignored, and no one likes to be ignored. And certainly no one likes to be brushed aside for some task. But for much of my life, I just couldn’t see this. Instead, I was so task-focused that I became blind to how this may impact others.
Indeed, many times I have pushed my parents away when I was typing up a storm at their house while younger. Many times I have stayed glued to my cellphone screen while family was getting together. Many times have I left family dinners because I placed an optional work schedule above spending quality time getting to know my nieces and nephews. In my heart, I wanted to have meaningful relationships, but I was too fixated on tasks. It prevented me from living in the present. Today I know it was partially because I was terrified of getting to know myself in the present, let alone other people. (At the time, I had not yet begun to address some traumas that I had experienced.)
The truth was, I was good at being busy, but I wasn’t good at being fruitful. I had built myself up with “things” and “tasks” – and those seemed like successes in the eyes of the public; career, good income, a house, but all the while my relational capacity seemed to have declined due to all the time I needed to manage all of those non-personal endeavors. What I learned, however, is that we cannot get time back. And sometimes, the same holds true for relationships. See, at this time, I didn’t know that relationships needed to be cultivated. I left them to happenstance, and drifted from one place to the next. It was easier. It “felt natural” (meaning, comfortable). It was the easy way out (and therefore unvirtuous in nature). I understand now that relationships need to be deliberately cultivated in healthy and holy ways, lest they become reduced to being based on similarities of vice, while having the function of “permitting” us to feel less guilty about the direction we are on because we have some “friends” with which we may travel alongside.
Have we Lost Friendship?
I know that what I experienced is very widespread. It makes me wonder: Do we even know how to be friends anymore? To me, it seems like the absence of friendship is the illness that the world has not yet recognized. Sometimes I feel that the fixation to “move up” economically is a scourge on our society that “legitimizes” damage to people’s capacity to relate in healthy ways, for the economic prize is most often only won when people combine forces for earthly gain.
But where does that leave us, spiritually? Where does that leave us on our pursuit of holiness? Where does that leave us in our ability to relate in holy ways? Where does that leave our ability to engage in holy friendships? It leaves us in a perpetually underdeveloped state. I was there. And to some degree, I am still there, but to a lesser degree. Through a lot of hard work and reflection, combined with striving to respond welcomingly to God’s grace, and with the willingness to step out of my toxic comfort zone whereby economic success was more of a god to me than God Himself, I have been able to divert the trajectory that I found myself on. Lord help me to stay along this new-found trajectory, now pointed firmly towards You.
I now have to be intentional with all of my relationships so that, all else equal, people come before tasks. In fact, this shift has been most impactful. It has helped me grow in virtue, my masculinity, and true friendship. It has helped me better understand HOLY friendship and what holiness looks like relationships of the romantic type (though I still have a lot to learn in all of those categories). Ultimately, it has helped me work hard to build a life that really looks nothing like the life I lived even ten years ago. A selfish “task above relationship” choice might be made by me from time to time, but like any person who has a shift in heart, consistent behaviour sometimes lags behind to some degree. Ghosts of our past appear when we least expect them to, and we sometimes make decisions according to them when our vision is less clear than it ought to be (and make sure to go to confession regularly to help with that).
The good thing is that the freedom experienced in pursuing virtue through Jesus Christ reminds me of what it takes to be a man of God. It takes a willingness to drop my pride, and to turn to Him, even in the face of humiliation. In doing so, we may find peace in knowing that we are becoming even further grafted to the person of Jesus Christ, who is the person through which all of our relationships and friendships ought to be ultimately modeled.
And though we are not perfectly Christlike, we can strive – and that is how we can become the best versions of ourselves. That is how we can bring about the best quality relationships and friendships in any case. And through that, we will truly be able to shift from busy to fruitful, as we allow ourselves to participate in God’s radiance through our lives, centered on His love for us and others.
Life is too short to strive for anything less.
*We are so pleased to offer you this and hopefully upcoming contributions from Hudson Byblow who is is an internationally known Catholic speaker, author, and consultant who currently lives in Saskatoon where he has a career in education. He has presented at National and International conferences and also presents to clergy, schools and parishes. Additionally, Hudson serves as a consultant to various Catholic agencies, speakers and educators. He can be contacted through his website, www.hudsonbyblow.com.