I am typing on my computer, working on a project when my phone rings. It’s one of my best friends from home who wants to catch up. I immediately panic and begin contemplating answering the phone. If I answer, I may end up chatting for forty-five minutes. Does my hour-by-hour planned schedule allow that? If I don’t answer, am I a bad friend? The thoughts shift back and forth with each ring. Finally, the phone stops vibrating and I can breathe again.
This scenario often happens for me. I stress whenever anything ruins my perfectly scheduled day; including good things like building relationships with others. My first semester at Denver Seminary, a mentor challenged me in this area saying that I prioritized tasks over relationships. Some may say I lean towards being task-oriented rather than relationship-oriented.
A professor explained task-oriented people and relationship-oriented people to me in this way: Imagine you have planned a group activity to hike a 14,000-foot mountain (lovingly known as a 14er to Colorado folks). If you are task-oriented, you are focused on getting to the top. No time for long rests or distractions. Your goal is to complete the mission, and that’s what matters most. If you are relationship-oriented, you don’t care if you make it to the top or not. It’s all about the journey, getting to know everyone on the hike, and prioritizing the friendships more than reaching your original goal. Now can you begin to see which side of the scale you lean towards?
I constantly fight the urge to prioritize productivity over a great conversation with a friend. I certainly haven’t mastered letting go of my control. Yet, that semester I made small baby steps in a more balanced direction. I made a goal to answer the phone every time it rang, no matter how it might interrupt my schedule. Slowly my heart shifted, and I started saying yes to long phone conversations, last-minute game nights, and dinners that went late into the night. My community became richer and my heart more full.
For those of you who lean towards being task-oriented, my challenge for you is to pray and ask God to bring you peace when a friend wants to linger longer than you expected. People Matter. Your tasks can wait. Prioritize people.
For those of you who lean towards being relationship-oriented, my challenge is for you to understand and respect the boundaries of your type-A friends. Try your best to be on time, lend a helping hand with the task, and most importantly show them grace when they get frazzled over an unforeseen interruption.