If you don’t know me well, you’d probably think I’m an introvert because I’m quiet. But I’m actually an extrovert. I went years thinking I was an introvert because I’m naturally quiet, until three years into working ministry at a summer camp I realized that to recharge after a long week, I needed to be around people. People give me life and I really don’t like being alone.
I chalk the quietness up to the fact that the rest of my family are introverts and so it became normal to live a quiet life. That, combined with some experiences in middle school that caused me to put up a lot of walls, and I guess there you have it.
Side note: does anyone ever actually enjoy middle school?
I’m positive these walls I put up have caused me to shut out a lot of opportunities for deeper relationships due to my insecurities and inner critic getting the best of me.
I think a lot of the time when we feel lonely or left out, we’re really isolating ourselves and building up these ideas in our minds rather than other people doing it to us. That’s not always the case. There are times where we are legitimately being shut out and those feelings of loneliness are real. Trust me, I’ve been there.
But I think because I have been there before, it’s really easy to jump to that conclusion when I start to feel just the slightest bit left out and I end up then acting out of that idea and unintentionally pulling myself away.
Whether we’re extroverted or introverted, when we pull ourselves away from community into a place of isolation, I think there’s something deeper that needs to come to the surface. It’s human nature to crave deep relationship with other humans – whether that means with just a few or many, it’s something we innately long for – so to pull away from that is teetering on a fine line.
When I’m in a place of struggling with sin, hurt, anxiety, or uncertainty, I have a tendency to isolate myself from the people I know could pull me out of that place. Not because I need to be by myself and recharge or because being around people is too much stimulation, but because I fear letting people in too deep. I fear telling people of my struggle with sin will make them think differently of me. I fear telling them of my hurt will make them pity me. I fear sharing my anxieties will burden them.
But we were created to live in community. There’s no doubt about that. It didn’t take long after creating Adam that God saw he was lonely and decided he needed a companion. God himself is community in the form of the Trinity.
Community doesn’t necessarily mean just those people who are in close proximity to you, either. It can involve people hundreds of miles away, though it does help to have some people you live close to and are daily living life with.
We need community to thrive in our lives. We need other people to encourage us and help carry our burdens (Galatians 6; Hebrews 10). We need to be in relationship with people in different stages of life and growth, knowing we can glean from others and others can learn from us. Not to mention that community is fun! It shouldn’t feel rigid or forced. To be in authentic, deep relationships means genuine laughter, some tears, and joy.
Letting people in is something I’ve been working on for several years. The process is challenging, but the results are 100% worth the struggle.
Problems 31 is very much a result of that process. K.G. and I started getting together occasionally after I opened up about my struggles with discontentment, apathy, and loneliness at the beginning of this year. If I hadn’t put those words out there on social media, I don’t know if we would have deepened our friendship enough for her to ask me if I wanted to start writing with her. And I definitely wouldn’t have been brave enough to start a blog on my own.
As I grow more in my relationship with Christ and slowly release sin, shame, and insecurities to him, I find myself becoming more deeply woven into my community. Once I’ve given something to Christ, I feel more freedom to open up to friends about things I’m struggling with and allow them to share in that burden with me. The temptation to pull back, and eventually make myself feel isolated as a result, is lessened.
I guess what I’m saying is I want to encourage and challenge both myself and you to lean on your community, in every situation. If you’re struggling with sin, find someone you can trust to talk to. If you’re feeling alone or left out, let people in instead of pressing into those feelings of isolation. If you have something to celebrate, tell your community so they can celebrate with you! Sometimes we feel we can’t even share our victories with people because we don’t want others to think we feel better than them.
We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. That’s what community is all about!
And if you’re reading this and don’t feel like you have a community, then I encourage you to find someone. I know that’s not an easy thing to do. Trying to make new friends as an adult sucks sometimes. It might be awkward or uncomfortable, but we are not made to carry our burdens alone. Christ is enough, but he also desires for us to be in relationship with other people, sharing burdens and lifting each other up.
Is this something you struggle with? Let me know, and I hope and pray we can release our insecurities and lean into our communities.