Part 1: Can "Social Distancing" Actually Bring Us Closer Together?

Not long ago, a colleague and I were discussing how recent travel bans and contact restrictions have impacted both our work and our personal lives.  

We are now using the jargon “social distancing" to describe this phenomenon.   

As we were talking, we came up with a concept that we ultimately refined into one central thought:   

Boredom breeds fear.  

Does this sound familiar?  

Although boredom may not be the exclusive sire of fear, this concept reminds me of another adage many of us have heard before:   

“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop."   

The concepts are strikingly similar, in that the primary tool Satan uses to control us is fear.   

Interestingly, fear is not only Satan’s primary weapon, but it is also frequently the weapon of choice for politicians, advertising agencies, media and anyone else who is trying to gain a powerful level of control over others.  

While there’s much to be said about the connection between fear and control, I’d like to dig a little bit deeper into the factors that can breed fear in the first place.  

If we think about it, the connection typically looks something like this:  

  • Isolation breeds boredom  
  • Boredom breeds fear  
  • Fear makes us vulnerable to the forces that prey upon it for their purposes of control  

Now, isolation can come in many forms.   

We can be physically isolated, as is being practiced on a worldwide scale presently.   

We can be mentally isolated, when we are surrounded by people who do not challenge us to grow and explore (i.e. take risks, the antithesis of boredom).   

We can also be emotionally isolated when we numb ourselves -- intentionally or not -- to the hurts, needs, wishes, hopes and dreams of others around us.   

And then there is the ultimate expression of isolation, which is spiritual isolation

We read in Scripture that “God is love." However you filter that statement through your own human perception of what love is, it remains that God is love. Spiritual isolation occurs when we disconnect from love (God.)  

But what is love?  

Beyond all else, I believe that love is relationship.   

We can argue that love is a feeling, or a state of being, or a state of mind, or -- as I believe --that love is a choice of commitment. But when all the semantics depart, love is relationship.   

Consider it this way:  

  • God is love  
  • Love is relationship  
  • Therefore, God is relationship  

Given this equation, it follows that ultimately, mankind was created -- by love (God) -- for the purpose of relationship.  

Throughout the ages, we humans have been asking ourselves, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” As complex as we try to make the answer, it really is quite simple:   

We were created by love, for the purpose of relationship.   

Love is the inward choice. Relationship is its outward expression.   

Loving ourselves and loving those around us -- our families, communities, tribes and churches -- flows from a loving God, the One who created us for that very purpose.   

Perhaps in this unprecedented time of “social distancing,” when many of us are feeling more isolated, bored and fearful, God is giving us time and space to reflect on what relationship really means, and how we are -- or sometimes aren’t -- loving ourselves and those around us. 

Rather than distracting ourselves by constantly jumping from one thing to the next, perhaps God is asking us just to be still. 

Rather than allowing our stillness to turn our hands idle with boredom, perhaps God is giving us space to take a breath and cultivate the internal resources we need to love ourselves more deeply and engage more meaningfully with our families, our friends and our communities.    

Perhaps we can turn this time of social distancing into a time of restoring relationship. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing the blossoming of restoration everywhere I look. People disconnecting from the “rat race” maze are connecting with their families and friends in deeper ways than ever before, even if it’s only through video chats and phone calls.   

The casual, sometimes divisive interactions on social media are transforming into exchanges of shared feeling. And in the parks I frequent, strangers are starting to greet one another -- albeit from a safer physical distance  -- with genuine warmth and neighborly humor.   

It's like we are awakening from the sedation of "normal life" to actually see those around us. And as we have witnessed so many times in the past, we tend to rise to our better selves when we are faced with collective adversity.   

In order to do this, of course, we must also learn to recognize and challenge our fears and remain vigilant against the forces that would seek to control us with them.  

But that’s for another post.  

Yours in Love,  

Stephen Rew