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Stepping Out of the Shadows/[Re]Connecting With
Your Life's Journey

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Strengthening Your Bonds of Fellowship
Chapter 2
By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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‘Tis Best To Receive As Well As To Give

We are each of angels with only one wing.

And we can only fly embracing each other.
-Luciano de Crescenzo

Our fellowshipping is strengthened by
transcending the obstacles we create for others to be our friend.

“Kojak, you stay away from me now, ya hear. I told you I don’t want you coming around here, shrinking my head.”

Lanis was starting the dance that we went through everytime he would see me drive up to the house. At the time, I was working at a half-way house for men who were homeless after being released from prison. Lanis was on my caseload. From the time we first met, he called me Kojak.  When I asked him why, he would just nod his head, give me one of his conspiratorial smiles and say, “Ah come on now Kojak, you know why I call you that.”

Anyway, today was no different than any other day. He would always be standing around the court yard. He would see me drive up, wait till I got within twenty-five feet of him, start shouting at me, then walk away. But he never walked away fast enough so that he would lose me. We always wound up in the same place where we would then sit and talk for at least an hour.

Today, I especially wanted to talk to him because I had a gift for him. I had noticed that Lanis had been limping the last few weeks. When I asked him about it, he would just shrug it off. After a while, I could tell that his left shoe had developed a huge hole in the sole, so I found him a new pair of shoes to get him through the impending Chicago winter.

When I gave Lanis the shoes, he spent ten minutes trying to convince me that he didn’t need anything from me.

“Kojak, I keep telling you to stay away from me. Now you go and do this. What’s the matter with you? Why do you keep bothering me like this?”

“You think I’m bothering you?”

“Well, yea man. Why do you keep trying to get in my face? I don’t need you or anything you have to offer me!”

“Lanis, why do you keeping acting like you’re so bad with me all the time? What are you so afraid of?”  

“Hey man, I just don’t want you getting too close to me, is that alright with you, Kojak, or do you have to make a big deal out of that too?”

“I’m not making a big deal out of anything, but I just don’t get why it’s so hard for you to accept someone’s kindness.”

“Listen Kojak, I can’t figure you out, but I know you’ve got an angle here, I just can’t figure out what angle you’re shooting.”

“Is it impossible to believe that the only angle I have is a concern for you or maybe even having a friendship with you. Have you ever considered that angle?”

“Kojak, don’t even go there, don’t you try that stuff with me. I know different. I know that everybody wants something from somebody. Nobody does something for nothing.”

“What’s the matter Lanis. You think you’ll be obligated to me if you accept my kindness? You think I’ll hit up on you for something just because you accept my concern?”

“That’s the way of the world, Kojak, don’t pretend it’s any different. I’ll take these damn shoes from you, but don’t you try and sell me on anything different, cause it just ain’t so.”

How many of us recognize the struggle that Lanis experienced with me?

Wanting to have people in our lives, but uncomfortable with letting anybody in.

Wanting to accept the kindness of somebody else, but not trusting enough to accept their kindness.

Wanting to feel connected to somebody else, but fearful of the price for allowing that to happen.

Think for a moment about the obstacles you construct to keep people from getting close. Do you recognize how people may come knocking on your door only to be pushed away by you? Take a moment and think about it. What are some of the scenarios that appear in your life in which people reach out to you, only to be sidestepped by you?

What experience has taught me is that we all have our reasons to keep people at arm’s length. Invariably, there are some fears that we hold about letting people in, letting people see us up front and personal.

For some, it could be that in the past we’ve had bad experiences.

Perhaps we’ve let people get close to us and they’ve used what they’ve learned about us against us.

Perhaps we’ve experienced humiliation as a result of letting somebody get too close.

Perhaps we’ve been taken advantage of by others. People continually taking from us without us experiencing any kind of reciprocity in return.

It could be that we feel frail on the inside. And in feeling so frail, we feel our only option is to keep people at a distance.

Self-worth has a lot to do with this. Do we feel like we deserve the kindness of others? Do we feel like friendships are something that we are entitled to?

These are but a few of the reasons that we keep people at a safe distance, pushing them away, rebuffing their advances.

But let’s take a moment and see what the truth is for you? What makes it hard for you? What are the fears that you walk around with as they relate to the way you’re in your relationships?

Don’t lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish. Quite simply, we want to strengthen our connection to the human race. We want to open ourselves up to being open with people in all aspects of our life. The payoff is enormous, the price we pay when we’re disconnected is proportionately high, as well.

The bottom line is that fellowship is a two-way street. If we don’t feel comfortable being a friend to others, it’s unlikely that we’ll make it comfortable for others to be a friend to us.

The more discomfort we have with extending ourselves to others, it’s likely that others will experience a similar  discomfort when they extend themselves to us.

The key to allowing people into our world is to become more skilled in entering other people’s world. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. That perhaps is the most important skill a person develops in my Relationship Bridge-Builders groups.

The more comfortable a person becomes with offering themselves to another person, the more comfortable they also become in allowing others to be a friend to them. It’s just like I said earlier, if you want people to be in your life, first master the art of being a friend to them. That’s one side of the coin of strengthening the bonds of fellowship. The other side is feeling comfortable enough to let somebody in when they come-a-knocking.

Just like me and Lanis: remember the choice Lanis created for himself. You can continue to limp through life by yourself wearing shoes with holes in them or you can extend your hand to someone when they extend their hand to you!



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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