Comfort Zones

Think about this for a moment; how many times a day do you tell another human being on this planet that you are “doing fine”? Why is that? My immediate reaction at this point would be to call you a liar, but I won’t. More often than not it seems that this is my default setting no matter how I feel. I have come to the realization that people do this because there is this nebulous societal norm that tells us that is “comfortable” way to talk to other strange humans all around us. Therefore, we all accept this norm and continue about our daily routines not giving it a second thought.

I want to do it the justice of a second thought. First, I want to break people in society down to four generic groups; 1) Surface Dwellers, 2) Snorkelers, 3) Divers, and 4) Submersibles.

I meet surface dwellers every day, there are a few that will occasionally give the distant smile or, heaven forbid, actually utter words to you. However, many of them tend to steer there rafts away from any interaction at all hoping that I won’t come over and put a ripple in their water. These are the people I see as the societal norm when it comes to interacting with someone you don’t know. Be that as it may, I have done this on occasion to close friends and had it done to me, it’s comfortable and has no depth.

Snorkelers tend to be people that I have come to know or am well acquainted with enough to let them see below the surface. I think most meaningful interactions begin on this level. The hard part for most people on this level is that generally one person has to jump out of their raft and invite the other person along. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and it depends on the temperature of the water.

Divers are those people (and you know them) who will come up to the surface, drag you out of your raft and take you to some deep dark recessed cave out of view of the snorkelers. I find that sometimes I go willingly; many times I struggle the whole way down. Divers want to get at the heart of the matter and will swim you through all of the murky, nasty, cloudy water to get there. They are ones that can see through the BS and will tell you when they see it. We tend to avoid interacting with the divers too much because it does take a lot of effort and is generally uncomfortable. However, once you start to understand each other’s network of caves, the return trips are enlightening and worth the journey. Of course, the flip side to that is sometimes we want to cut their air hoses and let them fend for themselves down there.

Submersibles exist at all levels, no matter how shallow or deep. These people will patiently wait for you at whichever level until you decided to go down a few more feet. This is a person that is with you for the ride no matter how long it takes or how deep it gets, these are our friends and family. These are the people we feel safe with, isolated from the ocean but still able to see it.

With all that said, what does it take to go from hanging out in our rafts to riding along with people in a meaningful way. Rick M and I were talking about this last night and the ultimate conclusion we came to was that it is a trust issue. It starts at the surface but until both parties are willing to give and then take it doesn’t move beyond that point. I know that it takes an incredible amount of trust for me to either invite someone into my submersible or go hang out in theirs. Then what happens when you invite someone along and they decide they’d rather keep treading water outside the door. Not that it is a bad thing just that many times we take it way to personally when someone isn’t ready to take that journey with us and we slam the door in their faces.

Then there are the people that just want to take and take and take and not give anything back. Those people that you really open up to and they respond with “oh, that’s interesting” or “that’s too bad” or Rick’s personal favorite “I’m sorry”. My personal favorite comes from other Christians, the “I’ll pray for you” and walk away response. Just a side here since Rick and I also talked about this; if you are going to tell me that you are going to pray for me, then do it, right then, right there, don’t just walk off. Otherwise it is a total cop out, it tells me that you just closed the door to your submersible and ran back to your raft. No relationship, or community for that matter, can survive with a bunch of takers. Eventually the takers come to the realization that they can’t take enough anymore or that someone is wise to their plans and they abruptly move on, taking their beach ball with them.

I have this friend, Rodger, who has been a great influence on my life as a mentor and a friend. We started out on the surface together and through a lot of give and take we enjoy diving and hanging in the submersibles together. There are some days where I feel like we are in the clear blue and others where it feels like the bottom of the Marianas Trench. He is often about getting out of a comfort zone. No matter what it is, he wants you to stretch yourself past it, because you will be better for it. All of us settle into these ruts or pockets of air. We know that we have come a long way but aren’t sure that we can make it to the next one. Besides this one is pretty nice so why not stay right here? Until we take that journey we are comfortable in our doubts and apprehensions. The “I’ve always done it this way and don’t care to do it any differently” mentality. We need people at all levels to help us continue on in the journey and to push us when we become comfortable.

It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

One thought on “Comfort Zones”

  1. That’s some awesome thought process, and you’re right about the levels. Coworkers almost always stay on their own rafts and really, “how’s it going?” and “I’m good” is definitely the phrases I hear most. It would be a strange day if all of a sudden there was depth to those questions/answers. Strictly outside of work, since that would take time out of it (lol)…
    So who do YOU want to be? I wish I was a part of the actual conversation with Rick, though. Cheers!

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