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Character Matters
May 2010
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Character Trait –Accessibility:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
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Can You Connect?
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It's almost more than our mind can grasp. Why on earth did Jesus Christ, who participated in Creation and established the vast expanses of the universe, willingly leave the glory of heaven and render himself subject to the limitations, temptations, and evil whims of this world? Simply, to reestablish mankind's connection to God.

Connection is important to God. He knows that without being connected to our life source, Jesus Christ the Vine, we produce little that is of eternal value. Eventually, we dry up spiritually and emotionally.

He knows, too, that without being connected to one another, there's little chance to grow and develop as we face the challenges of accepting one another in love, esteeming others more highly than ourselves, bearing one another's burdens, and walking in the spirit instead of the flesh in our encounters.

That's one reason why mature Christians – those who have progressed in working out their salvation according to 2 Peter 1 – are commanded to pass along what they've learned. Part of our responsibility toward our Maker and one another is to be accessible. To be willing to lay aside our own wants and needs to invest time in someone else. Now that I think of it, that's really a pretty good definition of homeschooling.

The time required of us in any given interaction may be rather short, such as giving our undivided attention to someone who is speaking to us. But how often do we find our mind drifting, either formulating our response or thinking about something we need to do later?

This tendency is even greater with those who have a different learning style from our own. I found it excruciatingly difficult as a global thinker to listen attentively at times to my concrete, analytical son as he recounted every detail and every statistic of whatever topic he happened to be immersed in that day.

I struggled, too, when my random, dramatic daughter chose the late hours of the night to cuddle up next to me to share what was on her mind. I dared not give in to the longing to sleep, even when she couldn't quite put into words what she was feeling, because I knew these moments would be rare during her teen years.

The art of being a good listener is not easy. And it's quickly becoming a lost art.

You see, listening is as vital to effective communication as is speaking. It means the difference between talking TO someone and talking WITH them. In fact, to be accurate, communication without listening is not really communication; communication by definition is shared meaning.

So here's a clue to help you assess your accessibility – to measure how connected you are to people. (But only in western culture.) Check eye contact. When someone is talking to you, do you look them in the eye? Or do you look past them? Is the other person responding by looking you in the eye? Or do they seem to be looking through you?

Looking people in the eye is an important “people skill” to teach your children, particularly when they are being introduced to others. Doing so can make an instant connection – and lasting impression. Likewise, when your children are listening to you teach or to another speaker, making eye contact not only shows interest but can heighten the brain's attention signals.

Making eye contact is a non-verbal way of affirming that we care and are connected. It shows our willingness to be accessible and part of the community God has placed us in, whether it be our family, our church, or our neighbors. Are we willing to connect as Jesus connected?
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Image Credit: © mariosforsos - Fotolia.com

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