Sometimes relationships start and then quickly end. Sometimes relationships exist and then gradually erode, perhaps after many, many years. What happens quite often with some people is that the relationship finally dies a slow, lingering death.
I am thinking this morning about a certain kind behavior that contributes to the death of a relationship.
Have you known passive people? The exist in their recliner, passing the time away. They seem content to watch life happen from a distance while they refuse to initiate, risk, or make any overture toward investing in someones life. They seem to wait for someone else to initiate, someone else to risk, and someone else to invest.
- Why doesn’t anyone call me?
- Why doesn’t anyone come see me?
- Why doesn’t anyone ask me to help?
I remember once seeing a man visit with a few distant relatives who he had not seen in almost twenty years. He was visiting with these relatives because they had driven many hours to see his mother, their aunt. Knowing that these relatives were coming to her home, she invited her son to join them for dinner. They all visited that evening, shared some memories and then prepared to part. The son turned to his relatives and said, "You all need to come see us more! Come back sooner! Don’t stay away so long" Hmmm. He had not sent a card, note, e-mail, or made a phone call to them in almost twenty years. In fact he has shown complete passivity toward these people for many years. He now, however, speaks to these people as if they are the ones who need to make this trip more often.
Passivity will kill relationships.
Perhaps you have been to a dinner, where a family went on an on about life in their community, their children, their problems, etc. and never once asked you about your own life. Perhaps you go home from such a dinner feeling as if you never really connected with these people. Why? There was not the healthy give and take of mutual interest and concern. Passive people often talk as if their world, their city, their church is the center of life and express little interest in anyone else’s life.
Something I’ve noticed. Passive people ask very few questions. They ask very, very few probing questions or follow-up questions. They don’t typically respond to another person by saying: "Say more about this, please." Instead, they will often shift the focus of the conversation to themselves.
Eventually, after years of family members, friends, church members, etc. showing little interest in one another, the relationship dies emotionally. No, I don’t mean that it formally ends. Rather, we just finally lose interest and disconnect emotionally from one another.
As I write this, I am thinking about some of my own relationships that need attention. No, I cannot control the response or lack of response from others. However, I can make sure that these relationships do not suffer from my own neglect.
Question: In what ways have you seen passivity erode relationships? In contrast, how would you describe the behaviors that show interest, enrich, and deepen relationships?