The beginning of a new year is often accompanied by a time of reflection and self-evaluation. We tend to reflect on what we’ve accomplished over the past year and those areas of our lives that still need improvement. In my own reflection, my focus has been on my associations and connections. How are they influencing me? Have I grown as a result? How have I influenced them? Have they grown as a result? It’s important to assess this as your selfevaluation is most directly impacted by your connections. Let’s discuss this idea…

You are who you attract. If this statement is accurate, that means I can examine my “circle” to get a good sense of who I am. You see, we often complain about the shortcomings and weaknesses of those we are connected to, without realizing that they are a reflection of us. It is impossible for us to be closely connected to people who are our polar opposites – after all, it’s our similarities and commonalities that bring us together. So, for example, you cannot be someone who believes in the value and character trait of honesty, but simultaneously be closely aligned or connected to a circle of thieves or liars. That’s incongruence between who you say you are and what you attract. It’s self-deception at its highest. The old proverb says, “Show me your company and I’ll tell you who you are.” The reality is, there are unexplored areas of weakness that may reside in you that allow you to: (a) be attracted to dishonesty and (b) attract the dishonest.

We have to be willing to do the hard work of going deep into those unexplored places of our hearts and lives and take personal responsibility for everything that is there – even the negative stuff. We can’t blame others for weaknesses or shortcomings that we continue to tolerate and in some cases, enable. The fact that we tolerate and enable what we dislike or what has proven to be of no benefit to the friendship/relationship says more about us than it does the other person(s). Which raises the questions: Have we been tolerating/enabling these negative traits in our connections? Or have our associations/connections just been reflecting the negative traits hidden inside of us?

The Word of God tells us in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils and man became a living soul. So for Disciples of Christ, we should resemble the One who has breathed into us. It’s just like the movie plot for Catwoman (starring Halle Berry), where an Egyptian Mau cat breathed into Halle Berry’s character and she in turn developed catlike abilities. In examining our connections, we have to reevaluate who we are allowing to “breathe” into us. We cannot attach ourselves to people who may in fact be feeding our own weaknesses and/or even weakening our areas of strength. “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33); and “He that walks with the wise will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer destruction” (Proverbs 13:20).

So, the question is, where’s the balance? How do we connect with the right people, while helping those who may be struggling with some of the same things we have struggled with or are struggling with? I think the key is what (Who) has your heart, attention, time, and commitment. Jesus Christ helped as many people as He could while on earth, but He had a very small inner circle that consisted of men who reflected His values and were on one accord with His mission. I think the issue is that God sometimes brings people into our lives for us to learn and grow from them, and/or for us to teach them what we know….. but we get attached to the “assignment” and try to extend it beyond its current lifespan. Instead of fulfilling the assignment, many times wefraternize with the assignment and this is often where we get in trouble.

While we’re still in the beginning stages of this New Year, let’s spend some time in self-examination and evaluate the people we’re connected to, how much they are reflecting our values, and whether or not they are merely “fulfilled assignments” with whom we continue to fraternize. The choices that we make in our associations and connections should never betray the integrity of who we are. It’s time to take inventory.

Prayer: Lord, show us ourselves and give us wisdom to discern our current connections. Help us to release fulfilled assignments and realign us with the people You have divinely ordained for our growth and development in You. Let this be a year of divine connections! Amen.