I’m going to write about isolation this week — Where does it come from? Why do we isolate ourselves from others? What’s wrong with it? How do we get out of it?
Marti likes to pick topics for me to write about that are particularly difficult for me. I think she’s thinking that if I write about it, I might write myself out of it. That goes so far. You can write about something — even capture it very well — but still not do anything about it. Writing it assumes you’ve grasped it and done something about it, even something you recommended. Not necessarily. You can even become an expert on something you don’t do. It can be the most deceptive cover-up.
But it’s a start, and you have to start somewhere. So here I go.
Isolationism is protectionism. We choose to crawl inside ourselves so as not to have to be vulnerable to others. It’s costly to engage. You might get hurt. You might look stupid. You might not know what to do or say. Someone might find out you haven’t been telling the truth.
Isolation is also the opposite of accountability. We want to keep secrets. We want to control what others know about us. When we isolate ourselves, we stay far away from others and only let out small bits of information. We like to be in control that way.
It happens on a corporate level as well. For some time, Christians have tried to isolate themselves from the world thinking we will keep ourselves from being stained — keep ourselves isolated and pure. Unfortunately if the world can’t see who we really are as Christians, we will appear false to them, which we do. The gospel saves us as sinners, it doesn’t isolate us as saints. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:15 that we wouldn’t be removed from the world but that we would be protected from the evil one. There’s that word “protection” again. We isolate ourselves to protect ourselves. Jesus says don’t worry about that. I’ll protect you. You get out there where others can see you, and I can use you.
We’ve got to get over protecting ourselves. We can’t do it anyway. People can see right through us. The only ones we really fool are ourselves.
We have to make a decision to get out. Risk. Get hurt. Know pain. It’s the only pathway to love. Or you can protect yourself, isolate yourself, keep yourself safe, but I’ll let C. S. Lewis tell us where that “safe” place is. No one has said it better.
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” C. S. Lewis The Four Loves