There’s more than one way to leave. And we do it all the time.

Whether it’s a job, parenting, church, or marriage, being present is a first step to anything good. You’ve got to show up! And that means showing up with more than your physical body.

I’ve seen it in my medical practice. A sixteen-year old girl comes to see me as a gynecologist for some medical care, accompanied by her mother. But during the entire visit her mother is on her cellphone with “a client.” Daughter is anxious, scared, and angry. Can you blame her? Was mother really present?

An employee clocks in at the scheduled start of the workday, but it’s forty-five minutes later before any work gets done – after applying makeup, catching up with a coworker on last night’s movie, and a couple personal phone calls. Did they show up to work on time?

Husband and wife plan to spend the evening together. He spends the time at the table with the checkbook and a calculator. She spends the time chatting on Facebook and on the phone. Have they really spent an evening together?

Such “little” leavings can progress to more complete separation. A marriage deteriorates into two people sharing an address. A church membership is now only a name on a list. Once the heart leaves, the rest of one’s being usually follows.

Unless you do something about it!

How can you prevent that from happening? How can you stay present?

  1. Observe where the heart is. Evaluate your own emotional attachment to the job, the marriage, the family, the church. If you’re a parent, a spouse, a leader, assess the emotional attachment of your children, employees, members, or spouse.
  2. Break down the walls. Misunderstandings, unforgiven hurts, un-communicated vision, criticism, selfishness – these are only a few of the bricks that can build walls keeping others from being fully present and connected. In a marriage, little prickly conflicts can eat away at connection and build walls. Don’t let any walls go unaddressed.
  3. It gets worse before it gets better. Sometimes that’s just the way it is: don’t be surprised. Tackling the reasons for emotional “leaving” may make it harder for you or others to be fully “present” for a while before it gets easier. Don’t let this stage stop you.
  4. Find the reason. Whether it’s integrity on the job, preparing your children for the real world, doing the work God has given you to do, or preserving a healthy marriage, focus on the reason you need to be present – and help other(s) to be present with you. That helps you get through the tough times.
  5. Choose to be present. It does all come down to a decision. Being emotionally as well as physically present in any relationship carries some risk. Think it through, and make the choice to be present anyway.

If you see someone you care about leaving emotionally, or you find yourself leaving emotionally, do something about it!

Your turn: Where do you find yourself “leaving?” Is there something you can do about it? Leave a comment below. 

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