By NEDDIE WINTERS
Dr. Gary Smalley, in his book titled “The DNA of Relationships,” says, “Life is relationships; the rest is just details. This is the greatest truth. Everything in life that truly matters can be boiled down to relationships.”
We are created in the image and likeness of God; therefore, relationships are at the core of our being. Relationships touch everything, including what we think, say and do, in some form or fashion. When our relationships are trustful, respectful and truthful, we feel safe and secure in our interactions. We affirm, validate, appreciate and even celebrate our differences. However, when our relationships are distrustful, disrespectful, deceptive, dysfunctional, disconnected and divided, it rips us apart at the core of our being.
When we observe our state of affairs, the dysfunction of our families, the deceptiveness of our leaders, the divisiveness in our churches, the destruction of our communities, the distrustfulness between law enforcement and the communities they serve, as well as the disconnectedness and division between our political leaders and their constituency, it leaves our relationships without strength and substance. This is the effect of shallowness of relationships. The shallower the relationships, the deeper the divide; the deeper the relationships, the shallower the divide.
Shallowness in the context of relationships can be seen as, “I am going to say what I think you want to hear,” or “I am going to talk about things that divide us rather than the things that unite us.” When we do take the time to know each other, our depth of knowledge of one another is shallow, only surface level. As a result, we cannot have the deeper, difficult discussions that lead to productive dialogue. Instead, we are more influenced by our color, culture, class or customs than by our Christianity. To have deep, difficult conversations, we must be willing take the deep dive and immerse ourselves into intentional relationship building.
In Luke 5:4, Jesus directs Simon Peter, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” After a deeper conversation between Simon Peter and Jesus, along with Simon Peter’s repentance, Jesus says to Simon Peter beginning with verse 10, “’Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’ And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” Jesus challenged Peter to come out of the shallow water and go into the deeper water. As a result of his deep-water experience, Peter was transformed.
The Lord is challenging us to go deeper into the water too! The deeper our relationships with the Lord and with one another, our thinking and our living become transformed, so we have a greater appreciation and understanding for one another (Romans 12:1-2).
To take the deeper dive requires personal initiative, prime time, and productive dialogue. First, someone must take the initiative to connect or make the move to cultivate the relationship. Secondly, investing our most valuable resource, which is prime time, demonstrates our relationship with God and others. Thirdly, racial healing occurs through difficult conversations, with humility, vulnerability and transparency enabling us to hear the other person’s heart and perspective, thus deepening the relationship.
According to Stephen Covey, “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival — to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” With that understanding, we must seek first to understand rather than to be understood. By doing so, this prevents our color, culture, class and customs from dictating our understanding. When people understand each other, they can solve problems and develop strategies to transform communities to live reconciled. Moreover, they learn to appreciate each other and use their differences in a productive and positive way. Once deeper relationships are established, it moves us into a place of influencing, being influenced, and problem solving.
Join us over the next 12 months as we take a deeper dive into the racial divide.
Neddie Winters is president of Mission Mississippi, an organization dedicated to racial reconciliation within the body of Christ. A proud alumnus of Alcorn State University, Neddie lives in Clinton with his wife, Tommie.