Who else would roll his eyes, make comments, and point out the obvious if Tonto wasn’t there?
Even the Lone Ranger needed someone.
Yesterday I wrote about community and the need for being in the right community. Today, I want to talk about the evil stepbrother of community: Isolation.
Isolation is a nasty, four-letter word in counseling. Here is it’s definition (according to the American Oxford Dictionary):
isolation |ˌīsəˈlā sh ən|noun
- the process or fact of isolating or being isolated : the isolation of older people.
- an instance of isolating something, esp. a compound or microorganism.
- [as adj. ] denoting a hospital or ward for patients with contagious or infectious diseases.
- PHRASESin isolation without relation to other people or things; separately : environmental problems must not be seen in isolation from social ones.
- ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from isolate , partly on the pattern of French isolation.
I want to pay particular attention to the first meaning, “the process or fact of isolating, or being isolated…” There is some action implied in that meaning. In fact, the definition points two separate process “isolating” and “being isolated”. The first one we do to ourselves, the second, others do to us.
Just recently, I entertained the idea of isolating myself from my community about a particularly painful problem in my life. I have felt judged (in my opinion unfairly), I have felt like people didn’t get my pain, I have felt like people were too eager to move me from my grief into a “happier” place without considering the cost of such a move. I just haven’t felt supported in my struggle the way I feel I need support. I love these people so I have no desire to separate from them in any significant way, but I just didn’t want to talk about this particular problem anymore because it is too painful to feel about the people I love. It is easier to withdraw and go off by my lonesome on this subject.
Or is it?
Let’s consider the cost of isolating myself. Even though I feel like I have been failed by my community on this problem, withdrawing entirely means that I have absolutely no support at all. Nothing. NO one can pray for me. I WILL not have an ear from anyone. I WILL struggle alone (for you Christians out there, I know I am not truly alone. But I am without people which runs contrary to God’s desire for all of us). I will have no one. And, I have to ask myself if isolating myself from my friends is worth the price of not feeling the pain of relationship? Because even the best of relationships are sometimes painful, especially when people disagree. In all honesty, I have to say, “No.” Being alone has never been nor never will be a great idea.
Isolating allows you to lie to yourself. You have nothing to compare your point of view to. Isolating means never having contact with another person. Never feeling the warmth of their presence and care. Always feeling alone and depressed. No one will be there to throw you a rope when you most need one. Isolating sometimes means death.
Being in relationships with people is a good thing. And, I’m not talking about just surface relationships. I talking about down-in-the-mud, helping-you-fight-the-good-fight kind of relationship. These kinds of people have your back when you are weak. They tell you the truths you need to hear, but maybe don’t want to. They bring you casseroles during traumas, and take you to Starbuck’s and listen to you drone on and on about this, that, or the other thing. They pray for you. They tell you to stop whining and act like a grown-up. They can be there for you.
In my case, it is my responsibility to speak up and say how I feel about other’s behavior. It is my responsibility to set boundaries with other people. It is no one else’s responsibility but mine.
We need other people. We need truth-tellers in our lives. We need fellow mountain climbers. We need someone to hand us tissues when we cry. We need people to shine a little light in our darkness.
So reach out find your Tonto…
So tell me, do you have a Tonto?