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Everything Falls Apart: A Life of Distraction

April 19, 2011

This week we continue our five week series entitled, Everything Falls Apart, exploring the major reasons why married couples wake up and realize they just don’t know each other anymore.

Every Tuesday morning we have a staff meeting at my office. It’s an opportunity for everyone to provide an update as to what’s happening in their department and discuss any major issues that would require the input of others.

If you’ve ever worked in an office with other people, the scene is probably pretty familiar. Sometimes we discuss major projects. Other times we discuss things like the need for someone to take responsibility for turning on the dish washer at the end of the day so we have clean coffee cups in the morning.

For the most part, the meeting starts out with most everyone engaged, but one by one, as you hear the quiet but discernible buzz of emails coming in to each of our cell phones, you begin to see people check out.

This is how most of our lives go, isn’t it? We show up somewhere with the best intentions of being engaged, then something steals our attention. Maybe we seek distraction because where we are isn’t all that exciting and we want to be stimulated. Or, at other times, we’re having such a great time that we decide we need to stop what we’re doing to tell our Facebook friends and Twitter followers what a great time we’re having. Before you know it, we’re just not engaged anymore. Our great time has been ruined by the need to tell others what a great time we’re having.

There is no question we live distracted lives. It’s the natural result of living in front of screens. We sit in front of our computer screens, trying to work, but email notifications and breaking news pop up, leading us away from the task at hand. We talk and browse the internet on our phone, all the while Push notifications pop up and tell us of some breaking event that demands our attention. We try and watch tv, but even the places we look for information are filled with breaking news updates and a scrolling ticker at the bottom.

Have you every stopped to think about the impact all this distraction is having on your relationships? Have you considered what our distractions communicate to those around us?

A few months back, author Donald Miller (www.donmilleris.com) claimed that, perhaps, our children will grow up thinking that we loved our phones more than we love them. After all, we give attention the things that we value and the “screens” in our lives get an unbelievable amount of our attention.

The challenge that we all face is in rightly prioritizing the important over the immediate. While being involved in social media and living in a connected world are not inherent evils, the results on our relationships, and particularly our spousal relationships, can be overwhelming.

You see, I think it’s easy to take our spouses and our marriage relationship for granted because our husband/wife is always just “there.” We so often confuse proximity for intimacy. We’ve taken the old cliche about love being about the ability to just sit with someone and say nothing and transformed it into an expectation that we should be able to sit in the same room, looking at different screens and never really interacting. And yet, it surprises couples to learn that, after years of never really interacting, distraction free, they don’t feel like they know each other.

Someone gave me advice one time that, while incredibly difficult to follow, is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. He looked at me in the eyes and said, “Where ever you are… be there.”

It doesn’t sound revolutionary, does it? However, it speaks to the reality we all experience today, the challenge to silence our distractions and give our whole selves to the relationships that are before us and are more important than any others.

It’s true that not every one of our interactions demands eye contact and undivided attention. It’s also true that it is impossible to cut out all distractions in our lives (as a father of three kids age 5 and under, trust me, I get it). These truths, however, don’t absolve us from the responsibility of giving all that we can, when we can. In fact, they mean that the avoidable distractions of our lives need to be put away, lest we communicate that our most important relationships are the real distractions.

Discussion Questions

What are the “go-to” distractions in your life?

How can you eliminate, or at least mitigate, those distractions?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 12:59 pm

    A thought provoking post that is fitting to the process I’m going through at the moment in considering where my biggest distractions come from, and how to manage them.

    Thanks

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