I’ve never struggled to be by myself. I’ve eaten meals alone, gone to the movies alone, and driven long distances alone. That’s neither a good or bad thing necessarily – just something about my personality. I know that this might be a foreign and even distasteful concept for you, but I also know there are many other introverts out there like me.
I am recognizing, though, that my natural tendency to isolate is only okay, like most other things in life, in moderation. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly pointed out: “Sin demands to have a man by himself. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”
To put his words another way, isolation, if left unchecked, will eventually lead to destruction. This is something I need to remind myself of, and if you are naturally introverted, perhaps you could use a similar reminder. So why does isolation put you on a path to spiritual ruin and failure? I’d suggest at least three reasons:
1. Isolation is a denial of who we were created to be.
The first couple of chapters of Genesis give us the creation account. In that account, there is a unique designation in God’s intent for humanity:
“Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Many things, certainly, but at least this – being made in God’s image means that just as God is relational, so also were we created with a unique need, desire, and capacity for relationships. Just as God existed from all eternity, and will exist through all eternity, in perfect relationship with Himself, so also are we made to experience communion with Him and with others. Indeed, the creation continues with God making the declaration:
“It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
If we pursue a life of greater and greater isolation, then we are denying who we are created to be. We are denying at least part of the image of God inside us, and ultimately, the very God in whose image we were made. It’s no wonder sin will creep up on us in such a denial.
2. Isolation is an outworking of inner pride.
The writer of Hebrews urged his readers not to neglect their relationships:
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The exhortation to not give up meeting together is built on the fact that we should be concerned for one another. That we should not let each other go our own ways, but instead we should push each other toward love and good deeds. That’s because the writer knew something about human nature – that is, we need each other to help us follow Jesus.
Or in other words, we actually can’t do it alone. Though we might not say it, there is a subtle but destructive steam of pride that underpins isolation. It’s that small voice in our hearts that tells us we actually can do just fine on our own. Pride will lead to our fall. Always.
3. Isolation will make you drift from the truth.
Maybe you know what it’s like to get too much inside your own head. Perhaps you have thought about some issue in your life – a relationship, a decision, a text message from someone else – and analyzed it inside your own mind over and over again. Our minds are an endless rabbit trail of insecurities, assumptions, and justifications.
Funny thing, though – when you actually start talking to someone else, all those fears, anxieties, and doubts you were so fixated on when you were alone suddenly don’t seem so huge. Brought into the bright sunlight of relationships, they are revealed as what they truly are.
When we isolate ourselves, we will start to drift from the truth. The truth that God loves us. The truth that God is generous to us. The truth that He really is in control. These are all things which we are reminded of in the context of our friends in Christ.
Friends, I get the desire to be alone. I truly do. But I am also learning more and more to not think of being together as an option, nor as a means of entertainment, but as something deeper. We pursue relationships in order to protect our own souls.