Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.Genesis 2:18
Walk with me here. I like my alone time. It allows me to recoup, reset, settle my mind and gives me the space to be creative, all of which bring my joy and peace. But underneath that quiet solitude is the understanding that I will be rejoining the world. I rest for the purpose to refresh and rejoin. Solitude is not the end in itself.
When solitude becomes the ultimate end we are seeking, it becomes isolation, and this can mean death to the human spirit. Consider the organic way in which we come into the world – into a family. A unit of people united by a purpose and sustained by love. This is a microcosm of the organic structure in which we are intended to thrive. In community. It is a fallacy to believe that we can thrive in isolation because it is contrary to our nature. Our biological organism was created by a union of persons and is sustained by a community of people.
We are also spiritual beings though, as we know – a body-soul composite, so let’s look at our spiritual side. If we believe in the Christian God, then we believe that He created us, and that “He” exists as the Trinity – a perpetual exchange of love between Father and Son that is so immense that a divine exhale of their love is the Holy Spirit. The Christian God is literally a “communion of persons”, a divine family. With this background we can say that both our body and our soul comes from a family unit of persons so to speak, it is woven into our very being.
During Covid quarantine we were forced to isolate. To those of us living with families, it may not have been quite as painful, but for many who lived alone, the solitude became piercing and many people became spiritually or mentally unwell as a result of this isolation. This is not a commentary on choices made, but the reality of the effects of those choices. Isolation attacks the mainstay of human thriving – loving community, and we witnessed very real rises in mental illnesses of anxiety, depression and desperate behavior.
As much as I am harping on the value of community and family, I am also extremely aware, as I’m sure are most of you, that our most painful, infuriating and damaging experiences can also come from this same unit. Instead of that reality countering the argument, I think that strengthens it. If we were made to exist and to thrive in community, then when something goes wrong with that community, does it not make sense that it would be all the more damaging and destructive? The thing that is meant to help us soar then too has the power to cast us to the ground.
Some people isolate as a way to protect themselves from getting the wind knocked out of themselves in this way. I don’t blame them. I do it too, but I want to force you to see where that goes. When we isolate to protect from potential harm, isolation becomes the end, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. In eliminating the potential for bad, we eliminate the potential for good, so all we have left to experience is isolation, whether it feels like solitude or loneliness.
It takes guts to expose yourself to potential harm, and chances are you will get hurt. But what’s the alternative? The false sense of safety in a chosen, isolated environment is also lonely and painful. I’m not suggesting that you unabashedly expose yourself to potential harm, that would be foolish, but to prudently and intentionally allow someone the honor of loving you, knowing that as a human being, they will fall short and hurt you in some way is the heroic calling of every human life. Implicit in love is vulnerability and as painful as that is when harm comes, that‘s the risk that allows the immense beauty of being seen, known and valued by another. We cannot escape from that part of our nature that hungers to love and be loved, and it cannot be met without an “other”. Without someone to love. Our soul was created within the eternal exchange of love, and we desire it in our daily existence.
I believe that people isolate from the wounded place of feeling unloved. The most painful thing in the world is to feel unloved. Now, we cannot control other people and demand that they love us because then we are not loving them. We must give the other their freedom or we are just as guilty of not loving well, but where we do have control is in determining how we respond to that human failing of not loving well and the pain that ensues. We can pull away and become an island, trying to numb that pain or bury the desire to feel cherished, trying not to need anyone, but it is a lie to believe that there is less pain in that choice. I think the appeal is to to have a sense of control in the matter, but in doing so we kill the part of ourselves that can feel, and to choose not to feel pain we also choose not to feel joy and that is spiritual suicide. I know because I chose this way. I chose it time and again, and I’ve come to decide that I want to choose hope. I want to choose to love because the possibility for good so outweighs the pain of that slow slip into spiritual death.