On my 29th birthday, I finished an Ironman. When I crossed the finish line, I was on top of the world. I felt as though nothing could touch me – until I woke up the next morning after the race. I thought to myself, “Is this all there is?”
Shouldn’t I have felt more accomplished? Shouldn’t I have felt more complete?
The feeling never came. But another one did. It’s a feeling our generation is all too familiar with:
I was 29 and crushing my goals, but I was lonely, isolated, and nearly depressed. But why? Because somewhere between the day I was born and the day I crossed the finish line of an Ironman, I had begun believing and living out that relationships are just something. I had never realized how powerful they could be.
It was an entire year before I did anything about my loneliness. On my 30th birthday, I sat on my couch alone in a pile of tears and decided it was time to change. I realized how much I had sucked at relationships in my 20s and vowed to not live my 30s the same way. Through a lot of conversations and God nudging me along, my relationships began to slowly change.
My journey began with me believing and practicing this simple truth: Relationships aren’t just something. Relationships are everything.
After coming to this realization, there were principles that kept coming up in my life that I needed to begin practicing. It wasn’t until I began to process and work through each of these ideas that I begin to gain traction with the people and relationships in my life. If you find yourself struggling with any of these, then you know you suck at relationships.
1. You haven’t worked through your past
I know what you’re thinking: My past? Ben, I’m only 20-whatever. I understand what you mean, but consider for a moment how formative your teenage years were. If you are alive and breathing then there’s a good chance there is hurt and trauma you haven’t addressed in your past that is stunting your growth in relationships moving forward.
In his book To Be Told, renowned psychologist and author Dan Allender calls what you and I often fail to address in our past as “shalom shattered.” It is naming pivotal moments of hurt and identifying the settings, characters, dialogue and impact surrounding them.
Going back into our hurt requires honesty and courage, but it is the only starting point for wholeness.
I wasn’t authentic and honest in my twenties. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be. I didn’t understand the power and necessity of turning towards my past and dealing with my own hurt.
Address your hurts now. Don’t make the same mistake I did. If you can learn to be honest about your hurts now, it will help you in building more authentic relationships.
2. You notice yourself taking more than giving.
“The more I help out, the more successful I become. But I measure success in what it has done for the people around me. That is the real accolade.” – Dr. Adam Grant, Give & Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success
Dr. Grant said it perfectly. And he is talking about way more than money. It’s something more powerful: the power of giving in relationships.
If you are taking more than you are giving in your twenties, then you suck at relationships. Taking is old news and bad advice. Giving is a part of the new economy in this world.
How do you know if you’re a taker? If you find people moving in and out of your life often, there’s a good chance you’re a taker. But you can make the switch quick. You become a giver by giving what you already have.
Every Monday night for the last two years, I meet with a group of young single guys just like me. What I love about our group is each of us has our own unique insight into life. Each of us has a perspective to give that others don’t. What are we doing? Giving what we have.
3. You consume more than you invest
This generation of twenty-somethings knows how to consume more than any other. We’ve been taught the power of consumption and are now abusing it. What we have failed to learn is how consumption destroys the potential for healthy relationships.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27
In the most elementary of ways, this begins with us understanding how each of us bears the image of God. This truth is often a mystery, but the way it is lived out is clear for each of us.
Investing in others begins on the common ground of you understanding that the person across from you was made in the image of God and deserves the same honor and respect you seek.
Recognizing and investing in others as image bearers rather than consuming them as products is key if you want to stop sucking at relationships in your twenties.
4. You engage the lives of others more than your own.
At my worst, I was an expert at stepping into the lives of other people while ignoring my own struggles. This is lived out more than ever in how much binge-watching millennials do every single day.
In a recent study performed by Deloitte, they found that groups between the ages of 14-33 binge watch TV for an average of 5 hours in a single sitting. In a similar study, Statista found that millennials on average watch close to 1000 minutes of TV per week.
That is one thousand minutes spent per week engaging the lives and stories of others rather than your own. That’s a lot of time. I don’t have a problem with TV, but this is a massive issue among twenty-somethings which needs to be addressed.
We must learn to turn it on its head. We must start engaging our own lives again – one day at a time. This isn’t about becoming selfish. This is about becoming aware of yourself, your surroundings, and how you interact with them.
When you learn to engage your own day, at first there will be a deafening silence. It will seem like all you hear are your own struggles, hurts, and the challenges you are up against. It’s a place of deep honesty with yourself that you need before you can be honest with others in healthy relationships.
5. You haven’t discovered the power of vulnerability.
A couple of years ago, I went on a first date that changed my life forever. I know what you’re thinking – “Changed your life?!” But it did.
It wasn’t what happened during the date, it was what came after. She shared with a mutual friend of ours how much I had lacked vulnerability. It crushed me. But it also set me on a path I have never looked back on.
Up to that famous first date, vulnerability was just a hard word to pronounce. It is now a concept and purpose I live my life by.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” –Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
You need to learn to become more courageous in your relationships.
This begins with you becoming vulnerable with others. It’s being open to attack and harm of letting others into our lives, pains, and struggles. Being vulnerable with one another isn’t easy. I get it because I lived it. But it is the mojo we need to get the life we want.
Here’s Your Challenge
You weren’t made to suck at relationships. You were made for something better in your twenties. Try letting just one person into your mess this week and see what happens. I believe you’ll both be surprised. If you can learn to invest in relationships now, you will set your life and legacy up to make a dent in this world. I guarantee it.
Ben Weaver is releasing his first book, DON’T SUCK: How to Improve Your Relationships & Make a Dent in the World on January 16th. To find out more about the book or grab your copy visit www.dontsuckbook.com