Social anxiety is a condition that seems to have become rampant in recent years. It used to be that if an individual had trouble interacting with others, it was a personality quirk… Not a disorder. These days, things are a little different.
Many would much rather text than call, and a ringing phone is enough to cause someone’s heart to race. The idea of small talk is enough to make some people break out in a sweat. With much of our social interaction happening behind a screen (text, email, social media, etc.), it’s clear that we are becoming increasingly incapable of socialization… and we’re starving for real community.
The need for community, affirmation and love is innate. We are born with the desire to be relational. God created us with a hunger to be connected. Why? Because God is relational, and we were created in His image. God cares intimately for us and He desires for us to care intimately for one another.
There is such a temptation to do the opposite of connect. When relating gets hard, or conflict arises, it is a natural reaction to seek isolation. We forget the counsel of God asking us to forgive, gather, and continue to serve. Some seek shelter in solitude, where the messiness of human relationship can’t touch them.
Others silo themselves away behind friendship fortress walls, strictly with people they like, or are like them. They do so in order to avoid the awkwardness of overcoming social gaps, or to control their environment by surrounding themselves with the easy and familiar.
Whatever the reason, isolation and social silos are like slow leaks in our emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Perhaps the emptying isn’t always noticeable right away, but give it a little time. As children of God, the expectation for us is different than that of the world. As always, the standard is high and the call is firm.
We do not isolate. We must not remove ourselves from the pack. When we remove ourselves from the safety of numbers, we become easier to pick off. We see this in wildlife. Predators attack from the outside of the flock, and the stragglers or the wanderers are the most vulnerable.
We do not silo. Now, having a group of close friends is not the same as siloing. But if you’re not open to having your friend group grow, you are siloing. If you are not open to allowing “your” friends to make new friends, you are siloing. If you think that you don’t need any friends, you are siloing.
When we surround ourselves solely with those like us; who think like us, act like us, and believe like us, we become a homogenous entity. If a body was made only of hands, it would be immobile. If it were made only of feet, it would never be able to hold tight to anything. When we are baptized into the body of Christ, we become part of the body. The whole body. Not just the parts that we like. And we must love the body. The whole body. Not just the parts we are like.
We must not forget. We need one another. To remind each other of the truths of the gospel. To display the redemptive power of the gospel. To experience the powerful sanctification of the gospel.
We cannot bear one another’s burdens if we are only one. (Gal. 6:2)
Neither can we prefer others to ourselves if there is no one around to show preference to. (Phil. 2:3)
In short, we cannot live out the commands of God to the full on our own. We fulfill the scriptures when we are in relationship with one another. (Gal. 6:2)
The purposes and promises of God cannot be fully experienced outside of the family of God. As hard as it may be at times to fight the urge to flee, as children of God we are required to lean in to the uncomfortable parts of community. Christ’s death afforded us the grace to live; not strictly for ourselves, but to love and serve one another.