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Chapter 13 - Social relationships
In modern society, many relationships are pursued for advantage. One might have some commodity such as fame, money, prominence, the ability to be entertaining, social grace, power, influence, or physical attractiveness that creates in others a desire to have or deepen a relationship with you. Others might have a deficit such as physical unattractiveness, social awkwardness, poverty, unsettling mannerisms, or obtuseness that are barriers to relationship.
Our initial relationships are in our family with parents and siblings. This developmental experience shapes our perceptions of relationships for later in life. For example, the person who has unpleasant early family relationships may leave one wounded with a desire to avoid relationships when he is older. Even when early relationships go well, one can find difficulty if he tries to extract from friendships the relational connection which can only be fulfilled from marriage and parenthood.
The artificial environment of society also shapes one’s view of relationships. Public education leaves an institutional imprint on children not too dissimilar to the effect of prison. Navigating institutional requirements can be easier through relationship with a fellow inmate. Such relationships can be helpful to endure institutional processing and essential to survive the attention of a bully or gang. Some see in this institutional imprint something positive they call socialization. By this what is usually meant is the social dependency that arises among age segregated children such that they are impaired from developing social skills outside of their age group. One manifestation of this imprint can be seen on a Saturday afternoon at a shopping mall as a gaggle of teenage girls congregate as if they were a single multi-legged creature.
The expression 'go with the flow' describes how most people live life. Relationships are formed frequently out of convenience such as within one’s neighborhood, social class, or work group. For this reason, Satan finds people easy to guide in the direction he would have them go. For his part, all he has to do, once he has people conforming themselves to those around them, is to use the media present a picture of the world that most will then adapt themselves to.
Within the human heart is a natural desire for relationship with other humans that was designed by God to be fulfilled in a family. Satan found it necessary to weaken and even destroy families so he has supplied substitutes to distract us from seeking that which God intended.
The proliferation of what is called 'social media' is an interesting phenomena. One can picture the natural desire for relationship spread so wide and thin that one thinks he has many friends when he is really only chasing illusions and shadows of people while also presenting himself as a caricature. So much time is spent reading factoids about people and posting banal and superficial comments that little meaningful in a relationship is accomplished. Any attempt at relationship depth using these tools is often seen as creepy.
The presentation of oneself to the world through a construct is an interesting extension of what Satan has already accomplished. For example, many women have come to believe that they cannot appear in front of other people without wearing their makeup. They have come to believe that a mask is necessary for them to be accepted by others.
Rod Serling would sometimes introduce a Twilight Zone show he had produced using the phrase 'Submitted for your approval'. This captures a little of how we often see ourselves in the social marketplace. We can package and present ourselves to others hoping, if not securing the admiration or envy of others, we at least could achieve acceptance or tolerance.
We get an impression that during the time of Jesus that this marketing of oneself was less widespread than it is today.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. - 2 Corinthians 10:12
While there were those 'packaging' themselves, most were engaged in the brutal honesty found in daily work and family life of the times.
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