How Social Isolation Is Leading to Societal Reckoning
I’ve never been an overly social person. I work in a solo environment, I prefer to be self-directed and self-motivated and have always gravitated to jobs, goals, tasks, and hobbies that are best done alone. That is why Triathlon is my sport of choice, I would much rather take my bike out, alone, for a 50 km ride than walk around a golf course with 3 other guys for 4 hours.
You could say that makes me an extreme introvert. But it’s not the whole story.
My work is necessarily social. I go out and talk to people, listen, and interact on a very personal, some might even say intimate, level. I’ve never enjoyed live networking events, too loud and superficial, so over the years I have perfected the use of tools like the telephone, email and social media to facilitate the personal connection required while still providing the physical distance I crave. A certain degree of physical distancing is comfortable for me and serves to make it easier to achieve the level of personal connection required to do my job. Somehow speaking to a disembodied voice on the phone is less threatening than revealing the particulars of life face to face.
At the beginning of this pandemic I slipped into the new protocols, the elimination of in person meetings in favor of video conferencing and more phone and email interaction etc., like an old shoe. We all had to learn new ways of doing things and for the most part we’ve done pretty well. Humans are nothing if not adaptive. But this prolonged level of isolation and introspection has pushed much of society to consider and examine things in ways that we aren’t used to. Once the pandemic’s initial shock wore off and we started to settle into a different routine the cracks in our society made up of social, racial, and economic inequality, began to show. These cracks are not new, it’s just that before we could cover them up with our busyness, now we have to sit with them and ask “what does this mean to me, and to our collective experience?”
Ashlee Eiland, author of the book “Human(Kind); How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together” recently likened the experience to cleaning out a junk drawer. She said that it’s as if the junk drawer of society has been dumped out and we are now being forced to sort through it, deciding what to keep and what to throw away.
Here are a few observations learned listening to her and examining my life these past few months.
1 – We must rethink how we interact with and serve one another.
Beware of a creeping sense of judgmentalism, it’s one thing to say you respect everyone regardless of race, sexual-orientation or religion, it’s quite another to put into practice especially when those things lead to differences in the way people think and act. Are you engaging with people through self-righteousness or a genuine desire to value the individual? Are you open to learning from those with a different perspective?
2 – Much of the work ahead will be conducted in the hidden places.
Real change happens when people of different backgrounds get in proximity with one another and begin working and learning together. This does not happen on the streets or the television screens, it happens on the shop floors and boardrooms of society. And it does not happen overnight. How long does it take to cultivate an authentic relationship? No one really knows.
3 – We must be willing to move forward without fear.
Someone will say or do the wrong thing, someone will be misunderstood, and someone will be offended. When people of differing backgrounds get together we can’t avoid these things, but if we act with humility they can be easily addressed and corrected before they cause too much damage. This will be a long process and we must not grow weary.
The heart of the matter is this; when we allow grace and humility fill us it flows out into the world like a overflowing river quenching the longing of a thirsty world. We’ve been in the desert for a long time, the world is crying out for water, grace and humility are the eternal spring that we all need to drink from right now.
How do we do that? Come thirsty but stay humble.