You might look at that title and raise an eyebrow. Isn’t independence what we are going for?
Well, yes, we are going for it: and it is one of the main reasons we have so much stress in our lives. In part because of my Life Ready Woman book and Bible Study, I hear from people all the time who feel completely burned out and weary. And as I listen to their stories I see the same theme. Without even realizing it, we can end up being isolated or lonely – even if we do not think of ourselves that way!
We have to do a radical rethink. Most likely, the last thing you want is to be isolated. Here are two very common ways you might be isolating yourself without realizing it –and what to do about it:
1. Letting inertia take over instead of putting yourself in community
We are all busy. I have two busy teenagers, a busy husband, and am myself always running around the country on speaking engagements. I’m full up. So what suffers? Getting together with friends; prioritizing our church connect group. “Sorry, we weren’t able to be there tonight… or last week… or the month before that…”
But we were not created to do life alone. After all, according to how the biblical book of Genesis describes it, God looked at all of his creation and said “it is good,” with one exception: it was absolutely not good for man to be alone. So God made someone with whom he could do life. Then, in the first recorded small group, he himself walked in the garden with the man and his wife.
Scientists have found that when we don’t do life with others, we are at higher risk of everything from depression to cancer. Over and over in the Bible, God stresses that he designed us to love and support each other. We are directed (not asked) to live in community with other followers of Christ. That means we have to prioritize community and work everything else around it if at all possible!
2. Not asking for help
Community doesn’t have to mean always being in harmony. It means simply sharing life together: not just offering support, but asking for it when it is needed. It means treating your community as if they are true family.
When I was living in Boston, a pastor shared a story about good friends who had moved to California. One night at 3:00 am, the pastor and his wife were awakened with an urgent phone call from their friends, asking for prayer. Raging wildfires were threatening their home and community. From their window they could see the glow of thousands of acres burning, the fire advancing quickly as they raced to evacuate their home. The pastor and his wife got out of their bed and knelt on the cold floor, praying urgently for an hour for the protection of their friends, their home, and everyone in the area.
In the end, although the fire consumed thousands of acres and several neighborhoods, the broader community – and their friends’ house – was spared.
The homeowner called the pastor and thanked him profusely for being a true friend. The pastor answered, “No. Thank you. You were the one being a true friend. You thought enough of our friendship that you were willing to wake us up in the middle of the night to ask us to pray. You were good enough friends that you were willing to ‘inconvenience’ us.”
Are you good enough friends with someone that you are willing to “inconvenience” them and share your struggles and ask for help? So often, we can see the fires of financial crisis, health issues or kids’ rebellion on the horizon. We pray and pray. God wants us to call on Him, of course! But God has also created community for us to call on—even in the middle of the night. That is what God has designed for you.
If you do not have a community of people like that around you, decide that this week is the week you will start to make that a reality. It has to be authentic, and it won’t probably happen all at once. But start to invite others over for dinner. Make friends. Be vulnerable. And be willing to not just offer help – but to ask for it.
In the end, your willingness to do both these things will be a blessing for you and those around you!
Want to know how to be kind, when you’re really not feeling it? My research uncovered three daily actions that will transform your relationships – and you. Check out The Kindness Challenge, now available!
Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.