What’s the secret to building meaningful connections?

Flower arrangement on table for Grief Coach Shirley Thiessen

February is synonymous with Valentine’s Day. It’s a pleasant reminder to declare our affection for those we love – not just on February 14 – but every day.

Ten years ago was Jordan’s last Valentine’s Day with us. We did not know he would leave us with the gift of a special Valentine’s memory and a potent reminder.

Through observing, Jordan discovered that Valentine’s day often elicited a love/hate perspective from women he knew based on their relationship status.

Empathy was not one of Jordan’s strengths, although he admired it in others. As he matured, Jordan learned that empathy, like a muscle, grows stronger with use. And he expressed it in ways that truly surprised us. No one was more shocked than his sister.

Here is Chantel’s story from a decade ago when she was a nineteen-year-old student.

“I love Valentine’s Day. It might surprise you since I am a single female.
My most memorable Valentine’s day was not with a romantic interest, but with my older brother, Jordan.

I was in my 2nd year of studies at Trinity Western University with no “ring by spring” potential. The hottest date I had was third wheeling with Jordan and his girlfriend, Elise.

My plan was to avoid all things Valentines.

In between classes, I went to Jordan’s apartment on February 14th. On the kitchen table, I saw a beautiful rose with a note attached. I automatically assumed it was for Elise. Imagine my jaw drop when I discovered my name on the card.

The hand written note expressed how proud Jordan was of me, how he enjoyed the 2 years we had to attend university together, and how he loved me.

It was most unexpected!

This was not the emotionally distant, unexpressive brother I had grown up with! His words in the card and single rose have left a lasting impact. I will never forget it.

All our growing-up years when I tried unsuccessfully to gain his affection had paid off at that moment. Jordan had given me his heart, and I gratefully received it on Valentine’s Day 2012.”

Words of love are impactful in themselves, but when coupled with empathy expressed in kindness, there is a meaningful connection. While someone may not always reciprocate our love as we desire, love perseveres.

1Corinthians 13:7 MSG. “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.”

What’s the secret to building meaningful connections?

Empathy fuels connection and builds trust. It is one of the strongest qualities valued in every kind of relationship.

Empathy allows us to notice others and imagine what it’s like to feel what they are experiencing. People won’t feel invisible around us because empathy widens our perspective and lovingly includes them. Empathy is a superpower.

A Challenge

In honour of someone you love who has passed away, I invite you into in a love challenge this month. Dare to care with empathy.

Ask God to bring to your mind 2 people each week to connect with meaningfully. Call, send a card, a gift, a text, plan a coffee date, or…

If you accept the challenge, I’d like to hear what you did. Please share.

May you always be aware of God’s unconditional love for you, for it’s an endless supply from which you can generously share with others.

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Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.