Word of the Week

Good for the Soul: Simplicity

If you missed the first three installments of Good for the Soul, check them out here: hospitality, beauty & travelSimplify

When you read the title of this post, you might immediately think this blog is about cleaning out your garages or downsizing your wardrobe or even streamlining your schedule. You might think I am going to share stories about setting clearer intentions around your shopping. Or even advocating for better time management.

And while such practices would be great to write about (for another day), I want to take just a moment and talk about the simplicity of relationships.

Or in other words how in our social everything world (hundreds of Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers), the simplicity of  our relationships really does matter.

For I believe, it is good for our souls to think carefully about the people we let in our lives.

I recently read an article by sociologist Martha Beck entitled, "Don't Give Up the Ghost" in which she writes that human beings are only capable of a certain number of relationships. Our brains are not equipped, she says, to keep up intimate connections with every person we met, knew or talked to from elementary school on (though Facebook thinks we need to).

Beck then cites the research of anthropologist and psychologist Dr. Robin Dunbar of Oxford University about our capacity for social connection. Consider these numbers:

150- that's the number of people we can handle having in a social group (i.e. the people we could send Christmas cards too)

50- that's the number of friends most of us could invite to a party (for a special occasion) 

15- that's the number of people who know about what's really going on in your life  

5- that's the number of people who have access to your secrets (the real stuff) 

(And for some of us these numbers would of course be less)

I found this article and these stats fascinating especially in light of several conversations I've found myself in lately about how relationships from the past drain us and how much time we spend online or texting.

Beck offers an alternative to relationship overload: ghosting.

Ghosting, she says, is the process by which "a person gradually withdraws from a relationship-- ignoring phone calls, being mysteriously unavailable for social engagements."

Or in the words of comedian Steve Harvey we show with our actions, "I'm just not into you." We live authentically.

Beck points out is that "Confrontation is actually an intimacy skill, a way to resolve issues with people you really want in your life. . . . You are not obligated to offer this level of effort to every coworker, acquaintance or stranger that follows you on Instagram."

It sounds so horrible doesn't it? Ignoring people. Who publicly admits to this?

But we've all ghosted and been ghosted, haven't we?

We've let our silence speak for us and our changing priorities.

And I believe this kind of simplicity is good for the soul.

If you have any people pleasing genes in you (like I do) simplifying your investments in friendships can feel so cruel (almost unbearable sometimes).

But the truth of the matter is that you and I don't have time for everyone we know (or even sort of know). We just don't.

We all have limits of who we have the capacity to really love. Our hearts can't give to or trust everyone. And it's ok.

Here's the benefit of it all: when we let go the "shoulds" in our lives something amazing happens, I believe. We have time, energy for the people who build up our spirits. We find ourselves surrounded by powerful voices that can encourage us.


Our lives are full of meaningful connections.

So if you're up for it, take a moment before you click on to something else and take an inventory of how you've spent your time lately. And ask yourself, how do I need to simplify my friendships?