The Pitfalls of Isolation

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of gathering our family in our home to celebrate Mother’s Day and our daughter-in-law’s birthday. After months apart, it was a joy to see each other in person, share a meal, and watch little folks play, squeal, run, and laugh.

We are social beings, designed by God, our Creator, to crave fellowship and relationship. Although the mandates for social distancing and isolation serve the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19, separation from friends and loved ones for an extended period of time causes emotional distress.

As I reveled in time spent with my family, I also thought about those who choose to distance themselves from others for various reasons and the pitfalls of isolation. Following are some pitfalls of isolation by choice:

We Were Not Created to Do Life Alone

I regularly walk in our neighborhood, and occasionally, someone stops me and engages me in conversation.  Often, I don’t know the person, and would rather keep going, but I usually stop for a minute or two. Sometimes, the conversation is about the weather, a question, or an introduction.

Once a man working in his garden flagged me down to give me iris bulbs. I’m not sure if he was desperate for interaction with someone, or if I looked like I needed some flowers in my life, but when I went back to his house later with my car, he gave me three huge boxes of bulbs. I planted them, and each year when they provide a beautiful fringe of color at the edge of my yard, I think of the man who generously shared with me.

The overarching factor here is our need to communicate and interact. We are wired for relationship with God and with others. Without interaction, an important part of our lives is missing and we are susceptible to depression and discouragement.

Isolation Magnifies the Minuscule

One of the more unusual conversations I was drawn into was with a man I saw occasionally at church, but didn’t know. He called to me from his front yard and asked if I sang in the choir. After several minutes of chatting, he named a man and asked if I knew him. When I said yes, he made one of the saddest statements I’d ever heard.

“He lives up the street and he’s my brother, but we haven’t spoken to each other in fifteen years.”

As an only child, it was hard for me to fathom having a sibling, who lived close by, yet not interacting for years. With hesitancy, fearing a lengthy narrative, I asked the man the reason for their separation, assuming it was some huge disagreement. I was even more surprised when he said, “You know, I can’t even remember why we stopped speaking to each other, but after a few years, it was just easier to keep it up than to try to figure out how to fix things. I really don’t think about it much anymore.”

But obviously he did think about it, otherwise he wouldn’t have summoned a semi-stranger walking by his house to confess something not normally talked about in casual conversation.

Ruminating on offenses, perceived slights, or simple disagreements, without discussion, turns the miniscule into a mountain. Hurts fester and magnify when not addressed and discussed. While talking to the person might not work initially, don’t permanently distance yourself and allow resentment to take control. Seek wise counsel (and this doesn’t mean any receptive ear), listen, and be open to thinking from the other person’s perspective. Then be willing to make the first move, even if you think it should be the other person’s responsibility.

Fear Becomes Your Companion

As COVID-19 becomes a daily part of our vocabularies, many struggle with an increasing level of fear. Isolation and daily counts of positive tests for the disease and the death toll add to the anxiety. Misconceptions about how the disease spreads as well as unknowns about lasting side effects kindle additional fears.

While it is wise to follow guidelines and take every precaution, don’t allow isolation to ignite the kind of fear that shapes your life. If you are to the point that fear is your constant companion, tell someone. Don’t be ashamed or feel you should be able to control fear on your own. Reach out and get help.

Change Occurs Rapidly

As our family gathered, we were surprised how much the grandbabies had grown and changed. In a few short months, the two oldest were inches taller, had increased vocabularies, and interacted with each other in new ways. The youngest was sitting without assistance, rolling, and rocking himself in a crawling position.

Change occurs rapidly, and when you choose to remove yourself from the world around you, you miss out on opportunities, interaction, and learning that helps sustain forward motion. Change can be hard, but change is often beneficial, allowing growth and new knowledge.

While COVID-19 brought the unwelcomed changes of social distancing, masks, financial distress, isolation, and fear, it also allowed time to slow down, reassess priorities, rekindle creativity, and spend time planning for the future.

If we’ve learned anything during these days of isolation, it’s the great value of community and communion, and thankfulness for the freedom of unencumbered interaction. The changes of the last few months that brought fear, stress, and inconvenience, can just as rapidly level out. Trust God to help you through ever-changing seasons of life rather than reverting to the kind of self-isolation that renders you immobile. Isolation equals stagnation, but trust and hope are your propellers.

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Proverbs 18:1 ESV

©CandyArrington

Candy Arrington

Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance +. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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