I grew up with a lot of company. My dad was an entrepreneur, and I was helping out in his businesses even as a kid. We went to church, well… religiously. And back then it was much more common to actually spend time with your next-door neighbors. I got to be around a lot of people.
The world has changed a lot in just the last few years. Businesses are struggling, going under, and some can’t find new employees even after months of looking. Working from home has been growing more common for a long time, but we’ve seen a huge shift that way in the past couple years. Even if COVID is completely eliminated in the near-future, it seems clear that some of these changes are here to stay, and the world can start to feel smaller and smaller.
The funny thing is, I’ve been working from home for many years without feeling all that isolated. I don’t get out that often or host a lot of parties, but I feel that I do have a meaningful social life. So how does that work, and what (if anything) could you apply in your own life? Let’s talk about that.
I’d have to say that my career itself is the biggest part of it. See, I’ve always hated small-talk and never been any good at it. I can do it, but it just doesn’t nourish me. I like to ask the big questions. I like to talk about philosophy, faith, what’s really going on in our lives… and football, once in a while. That’s what I need to feel connected to other people.
In my case, I’m blessed enough to do this sort of thing every day in my work, but not everyone is so lucky. When connection doesn’t come to you, you have to go looking for it. That’s not always as easy as it should be, especially because loneliness tends to be a paralyzing force. Just like physical and spiritual health, community takes work—and it’s much easier to maintain it than to build it in the first place.
Now, all of that is easily said, but it’s also fairly abstract. How do we translate that into practical steps? Well, if you’ll bear with me for a moment more, there’s a particular internal choice that might help get across what I’m talking about. That choice is forgiveness.
Just about everyone I’ve ever worked with has had an unforgiveness issue on some level, and the bad ones, the ones that fester over time, are among the surest ways to kill a relationship. But let’s broaden our view of unforgiveness a bit. The first thing you think of is probably a marital issue, or an issue with a parent or sibling, right? But what about people who simply have different views, lifestyles, or interests? Similar to how an unforgiveness issue can torpedo a personal relationship, getting too caught up in these sorts of differences can stifle them from forming.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s wrong to seek out people with similar interests or perspectives. Just that placing too much emphasis on these filters can be overly divisive. I think this might be more of an issue now than ever before, even though the world is technically more connected than it’s ever been. When I was young, your community was something that formed naturally around you. It came from your work, your faith, the physical location where you lived…
Now more than ever, we’re able to seek out people almost instantly, based on proximity, perspectives, interests, or any number of other things. But with that comes a burden, that if we aren’t proactive about finding our own community, there’s no guarantee that one will organically form around us—and this is especially hard for introverts and people with social anxiety. On some level, we ALL need human contact, but it’s getting harder and harder to come by that contact passively.
With all that in mind, one of the best things we can do for our own social lives is to simply… give people the benefit of a dou
bt. Tolerate only those people who agree with you, and you’ll eventually find yourself unable to tolerate almost anyone. Try to get along with everyone, and you’ll find yourself making friends you never would have imagined.
Of course, this is only one small step—but a step worth taking. Enough to occupy us for a few days, at least.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd