Bishop Scott Anson Benhase
March 22, 2013eCrozier #170

The Importance of Human Connection    

"The most important innovation in medicine to come in the next 10 years is the power of the human touch." - Dr. Abraham Verghese


In Dr. Abraham Verghese's TED talk in 2011, he made the point that so much of life, including the practice of medicine, relies on technology. While this has resulted in many helpful advances in medicine and in so many other areas, it has also had a not so beneficial consequence: we miss the importance and power of human touch and connection. In his medical profession, he has concluded that doctors, when they take the time to listen intently for at least 45 minutes to their patients and then to spend another 45 minutes examining them through touch, they are much more likely to make a correct diagnosis and their patients are much more likely to thrive.


This is not just true for medicine. It would be a mistake to pick on medical professionals as the only ones who fail to take the time to listen to the other and to make a human connection. We all have allowed the pace of life to dictate how we choose to live it. We use our busy, over-scheduled lives as an excuse for not insisting on connecting with the other person, understanding them, hearing them, and empathizing with them. There is always one more thing to do, one more task that seemingly must be done, or one more problem to address.


I imagine with doctors this is a particularly difficult challenge with the pressure of seeing enough patients so they can cover their overhead costs, satisfy insurance mandates, and make a living in the process. It is a challenge I have as well. There are not enough hours in a week to get done everything demanded of me. So, I like many of you, do a personal triage where I sort through what is urgent and important. The urgent usually gets my attention, and often demands it. The urgent, however, makes us all slaves to what is blaring in front of us. It is the next appointment that impinges on who we are meeting with now. It is the deadline we must meet, which means we believe we are compelled to short-change the person we are with in order to satisfy the clock. But can we step back from what is urgent and see rather what is important, that is, our human connection?


Recently, I had someone remind me of how I had treated that person as a box to be checked off and not as a person who needed human connection with me because of the hurt the person was experiencing. This was not an easy thing for me to hear, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I wasn't being purposely callous or insensitive. In fact, I thought I had done all that was needed. The urgent, however, beckoned me to the next thing and I had lost track of what was important.


With all due respect to Dr. Verghese, it is not just medicine that needs this "innovation" of human connection. We must know that others won't know we are Christians because of our busyness, our deft use of technology, or even our strong preaching of the Gospel. They will know we are Christians by our real, down-to-earth, and connected love.

  Scott's Signature

The Rt. Rev. Scott A. Benhase               


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