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“Hey, man, I’ll be in touch” is almost as abused as “I’ll call you” after a date.  That’s the way of modern living.  Think about it.  Having lived all over the world, I’ve observed something about friendship.  Some people just don’t keep in touch.

Some of us are really very busy, so busy that it’s impossible to keep in touch.  I want to offer some observations in this blog about the way relationships seem to work these days.  Think about it.  Why do people hang around each other?

The pet answer is so that we can build meaningful relationships, but that is not always the case.  These days, in business success seminars, gurus teach us that it is important to keep our network broad in order to succeed.  I have a real problem with the last bit.  “In order to succeed” is no reason to build relationships.  I think our society has gotten it backwards.  Relationship is just one more tool we can use to obtain our end.  We can “use” relationship.

My wife shares something quite humorous with me.  She attends one of these professional seminars where the guru tells the participants that they have to help others in order to get help.  Understand that this is a seminar for the unemployed who want to network in order to find work.  It seems funny that our helping of others is also dependent on others helping us.  The cynical side of me says that this is just one more version of “you rub my shoulders and I’ll rub yours.”

Think about way back when you were in high school.  Why do you hang around the popular guy or girl?  Is it not because that person has something that everyone wants?   Or perhaps some of you were that popular person. Think about why people hang around you?  Is it your good looks, shining personality or your great charisma?  Think about the lonely kid who doesn’t have a lot of friends hanging around him.  Have you ever wonder why?  Perhaps others don’t see him or her as having something they want.  Jeremy Lin in a recent interview talks about his distinction between real friends and fans.  He always makes the distinction.  Obviously, his fans will go to great length to promote him too because after all, he has something they don’t have.  Sometimes good looks may not be the key.

I recently heard one radio program where a young lady gives tips on how to be popular with girls in seminary.  She observes that not every popular single guy in seminary is a handsome and dashing person.  Those who fit perfectly the spiritual and academic environment tend to get all the girls even if they’re not handsome.  These are the types who will listen to all the spiritual sharing of the young female classmates, who will tutor them in subjects everyone has difficulties and who will say just the right religious language at the right time.  They have something someone wants.

Relationship, in all the above case, has become a transaction finance and power.  In a society of transactional relationships, no wonder many of us are lonely.  Even our social media do not help us.  I’ve even seen people befriending people on Facebook in order to get to their famous friends.  In one case, a famous academic befriended me on Facebook, sending out a friend request precisely at the time he published his bestseller.  Whenever he blogs and shares his insights, I try to respond thoughtfully on Facebook to his post.  His ONLY interaction with me was, “Hey, Sam, write that on my blog instead of putting it on my Facebook,” no “thanks for the add … nice to meet you.”  Sorry, that is not going to work for me because I try to stay away from people who “use” relationships.  When relationships become a tool to be used, it becomes something so much less than what God has intended for.  Relationships are to be built, not used.  Relationships are just too valuable to be used.  It is not the means; it is the end.  Believe it or not, how we deal with relationships actually impacts our relationship with God.

Let’s turn our attention to our relationship with God.  Is it often that we go to God only when we want something?  People are often the most pious when they’re in crisis.  Once again, relationship here is also transactional.  How we treat relationship directly impacts our relationship with God and with others.  I wonder what kind of relationship we’re building today and what kind of relationship we’re using today to get to an end.  My hope is that you, my reader, is more of a builder than a user.  I hope the same for myself.  I much prefer people to keep in touch not to get something, but to build up someone.  And guys, if you’re not going to call a girl after a date, don’t be that jerk that says “I’ll call you.”