As Americans we love “do it yourself”. DIY has become a national phenomenon. There are whole TV networks dedicated to DIY. Nothing wrong with that of course. It’s fun to figure things out on your own and complete a project then sit back and admire your work.
However, when it comes to relationships, DIY can become a wormhole leading to emotional isolation, mental health issues, and physical problems as well. In our culture we use phrases all the time that represent our fiercely independent way of life…
Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do.
I’m a self-made man or woman.
I march to the beat of my own drum.
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
I’m an American so I’m independent and proud.
I’m a Texan so I’m doing it my way.
My business is my business.
As a result, we are more isolated than ever. I’m working on a book about this topic and in my research I found that emotional and mental health has declined dramatically in recent years, primarily because of our increased isolation. Covid has only worsened the problem. Here is an excerpt from some of my research:
As demonstrated by a review of the effects of perceived social isolation across the life span…loneliness can wreak havoc on an individual’s physical, mental and cognitive health.
Our research really shows that the magnitude of risk presented by social isolation is very similar in magnitude to that of obesity, smoking, lack of access to care and physical inactivity.
Too many of us continue to choose isolation over connection because frankly it’s easier – in the short run. It’s easier to stay to myself because then I don’t have to deal with people’s opinions or their problems. I don’t have to face my anxiety or insecurities. I can keep all my problems to myself.
Unfortunately, this mindset over time, only exacerbates the internal issues. Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Insecurity is real. To be clear, those issues can’t always be repaired by connecting with others. Sometimes we need to see a therapist or medical professional to help us work our way through our struggle. I spent time seeing a counselor last year and it was exceedingly helpful. At the same time, no matter our level of struggle, isolation only makes it worse, not better.
The writer of Hebrews said it this way, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do…”
He’s saying we need each other. We’re not meant to do life alone. My wife and I were recently driving up the Oregon coast. It’s a beautiful place. Cliffs drop down to black sand and rocks, the size of buildings, pushing out of the water. On the cliffs are giant trees standing in rocky soil. As I looked at this amazing scene I couldn’t help wondering how those trees withstood the wind, rain, salt, and coastal storms that hit them on a regular basis. Then I looked down and noticed the roots, many of which were on the surface because the soil was shallow and rocky. Those roots were completely intertwined with one another. I realized the trees stand tall and strong because they don’t stand alone.
By Keith Spurgin