by Kyle Beard on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
Anyone who’s walked through life has experienced the feeling of isolation, that place of being alone, separated from others. Isolation can stem from the rejection of others or physically not having anyone around. More often than not, it is rooted in pushing others away, either actively or passively. This world we live in is filled with broken, hurting people, who inevitably hurt one another. Therefore, some of us make conscious decisions to keep other people at arms length in an attempt to protect ourselves from future pain or heartache.
There’s one simple truth about this isolation: it seems to work by keeping us away from relational pain. When no one is close to us, we don’t get hurt. The pains of rejection, being forgotten, criticism, and more, no longer impact us because these emotions not experienced when we are alone. We enable a reality where our thoughts reign supreme. We create an island of isolation no one can enter. We feel safe and protected…and alone.
Life is full of ironies. As a therapist I believe one of the greatest ironies is that of relationship. When we are in relationship, we will get hurt. This is a fact. Given enough time, everyone will let you down or hurt you. We all make mistakes that impact those in relationship with us. So, to be in relationship means willingly walking into future pain. And yet as humans we need connection. Without relationship we cannot live a satisfying life. That life will be empty, lacking, with a longing that can only be filled by connection with others. The irony is in order to fill this relational need, we must risk our own comfort.
To be in relationship is to risk. To knowingly step into a situation where there is a possibility we will be hurt is the definition of risky. The challenge lies in finding the courage to enter into relationship with the confidence that we have the ability to handle the pain. Being hurt by those we care about does not negate their love for us; it can actually deepen the love in a healthy relationship. For when we can be in connection with others, who both love us and hurt us, something interesting happens. We learn a difficult lesson – we are able to be hurt, but we are not as fragile as we thought. Those past painful experiences, which led to isolation, were not as powerful as we perceived. I have learned I can handle relational pain, and even use it as a way to connect more to the other person. When two people who care about each other acknowledge the hurt and pain they’re caused in their relationship, a level of connection takes place that can only happen in that safe place. Both people accept their humanity, their brokenness, while also accepting their desire to be in connection with each other. This is the power of healthy relationship.
The island of isolation seems like a safe place, but in reality its insecure and vulnerable. For our security in life comes from the community surrounding us, not the way in which we protect ourselves from potential pain. No man is an island. We are broken people relying upon other broken people for love. This is the irony of life, and it’s the beauty of life, all at the same time.