The Isolationist Mentality

Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.

Thinking about that quote, one question came to mind: Do we sometimes mistake solitude for isolation? I think I do.

On Monday, I touched on how I want to take advantage of the “little solitudes” that come about during my day. What that means for me is intentionally spending time with God even during the seemingly insignificant moments — simple moments like my commute to work.

But in larger examples, after thinking about it, I think I may suffer from what I call The Isolationist Mentality.

Definition of an Isolationist: a person who believes that his or her country should not make alliances with other countries

An isolationist refuses to enter into alliances or agreements with foreign entities. Isolationism, at its core, focuses on its own country–it’s own people. While the definition of an isolationist has political roots, I find it can directly translate to how I view relationships at time.

Rather than viewing solitude as an intentional time to commune with my Father, I look at it through a self-serving lens. This mentality feeds on self-service, thrives on covetousness, and breeds isolation. How can I recognize these tendencies in my life? For me, the following thoughts are indicators of this mentality’s presence in my life:

  • I can do things by myself.
  • I don’t need to call this person–they’re probably doing okay right now.
  • I need to have/deserve some “me time”.
  • I don’t want to rely on any friends for help.
  • I am not going to make a difference anyway.

Instead of saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t need this person in my life right now”, I want to switch my thinking and tell myself, “Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.” I also want to remember the importance that God places on friendships and community. He has placed certain people in my life for a reason. In the same vein, He has placed me in other people’s life for similar reasons. Not only has He has called both you and me to fellowship with other believers, but He also desires both transparent and authentic living. I feel a solid example in scripture is in Acts 2:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and good, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

How do you curb “The Isolationist Mentality” in your own life?

54 Comments

  • Michael

    April 27, 2011

    Isolation is something that I dealt with for about 3 years. I had fallen into a place where I just didn’t want to be around anyone or anything. I wrote a poem about it called Isolation Befriended Me last year. It was probably the best thing I could have done because it really brought some healing.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Not sure if I remember that poem… I’ll definitely look it up. Thanks, michael!

      Reply
  • bill (cycleguy)

    April 27, 2011

    Being an extreme extrovert places me in a different camp than you dustin. My problem is not being isolated from people; it is finding time to be isolated. I tend to be around people so much that finding time for myself is tough. I need, not I NEED, to find time for me and God. I do like what you wrote though: Instead of saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t need this person in my life right now”, I want to switch my thinking and tell myself, “Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.” Couldn’t agree with you more. Good thoughts my friend.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      thanks bill…. yeah, I suppose we’re in different camps. :) It’s easy for me to find time to be isolated… it’s just making sure my heart is in the right place. :)

      Reply
  • seekingpastor

    April 27, 2011

    This may sound strange, but being a pastor has made me a better Christian and it has definitely made me overcome my isolationist mentality. If I am doing my pastoral duties correctly–praying, studying, caring for the people–then the desires I have to go it alone disappear.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      That’s interesting Matt … I suppose because your role requires intentionally putting yourself in those situations. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Tom

    April 27, 2011

    Great thoughts Dustin! I definitley think we need to be both but neither to an extreme. Jesus’ practice was to go off in isolation to pray but it was certainly not His intention to stay there and neither should it be ours. May we be fed and then go and feed…thanks for making me go through the thought process to see the value of both!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      A balance for sure. Good reminder, Tom. I think you’re spot on with “not His intention to stay there”. We should take what we learn from those solitudes and share them!

      Reply
  • Jim F

    April 27, 2011

    I have as a solo pastor felt isolated and it is not something I like at all. I do my best to be with people and enjoy them. I do have times that I need solitude but I do not need to be isolated.

    Good thoughts.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Appreciate your readership, Jim. Like tom said, I think it’s a balancing act and remembering the importance of both sides…

      Reply
  • Justin

    April 27, 2011

    Insightful stuff, Dustin.

    I’m usually not much good to others if I haven’t taken time for myself – I actually find that I pour into others more than I pour into myself. When that happens I sense an erosion taking place in my soul. Solitude – then restore.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Justin… I find your comments to be even more insightful at times. :) Case in point, right here! You allude to a progression of sorts…. in order to pour into others, we first must be poured into (which can happen during those solitude times). Thanks for the comment, brother!

      Reply
  • Jon

    April 27, 2011

    Wow…really great post man. Being an introvert (or what I like to call extroverted introvert), I do tend to withdraw myself at times. But, like you, I want to be more intentional with the way that I live my life. I want to foster community, and build bridges. I think another part of this isolated mentality (well, for me), is fear or past hurts. I’ve been knocked down in the past, and so it’s easier just to adopt that loner, keeping people at a distance perspective. But, that is pride, and not how God intended for us to live.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Jon, I think we’re a lot alike… I can relate to what you said. So often I become accustomed to just withdrawing/not sharing/being by myself, that it becomes a comfortable choice. I mean, in a warped way of thinking, I don’t have to deal with any drama… right? (btw, wrong way of thinking! :))

      Reply
  • Adam

    April 27, 2011

    Good thoughts Dustin.

    I think for me personally it is to be aware that I need others. I may not know why at the moment, but they are serving a purpose.

    Another thing I really have to watch out for is when I think- “how am i making I make a difference in their life, and am I really needed?”, and I have to realize God has plans for me. Plans I may not all the times understand at that particular moment, but He put me in this persons path for a reason….

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      For sure, Adam. He places certain people in our lives for certain reasons- like you said, whether we know why or not. In the same vein, I would challenge you switch it up and also look at it like this: God has placed YOU in someones live for a reason. Just as important.

      Reply
  • Joseph

    April 27, 2011

    Great post Dustin, I’ve always been someone who likes to keep to myself. I have a difficult time sharing my emotions with others. It’s something that I’ve had to work on the the past few years. And I still have a lot of work left.

    I’ve read that passage of scripture from Acts a few times and see that this is the proper way to do church. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people”. Now we don’t meet everyday but what I think is more importantly here is the being glad and sincere hearts part. Our churches will not grow the way they should if we are not glad in the favor of all the people. If we can’t unite and come together for the purpose of God we will not see this world changed the way God is capable of changing it. So many of us have the “isolation mentality” . I pray we move away from this. including me.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Thanks for the reply, Joseph. I appreciate your thoughts. I think our society places so much emphasis on “no ones going to help you out, you need to do it yourself”. That takes away from the community aspect, I think. However, I wholly believe in personal accountability… but, we can’t discount the fact that there are other people in our lives… to “do life together”.

      Reply
  • Moe

    April 27, 2011

    I am a big, “I don’t need people” type of person. That is such a lie. I need people, I need community. We were created for it.

    I remember an illustration I once heard. If you take a bag of coal and set it on fire. It becomes almost impossible to put the fire away. But take one piece of coal and set it apart (isolate it) from the others and the coal would turn off quickly. I think this is true of us today. We need each other. I need you Dustin. Will you be the coal next to me?

    Reply
    • Donald Borsch Jr

      April 27, 2011

      Moe,

      You just took “burning man-love” to a whole new level.

      LOL!

      Reply
      • Moe

        April 28, 2011

        LOL. You got that right Donald!

        Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Excellent illustration. Love it.

      And yes, I’ll be your coal! #brodown

      Reply
      • Moe

        April 28, 2011

        LOL. Thanks coal man. :)

        Reply
        • Dustin

          April 28, 2011

          I’m a Coal Man….!! (Sung to James Brown’s I’m a Soul Man)

          Reply
  • Ryan Tate

    April 27, 2011

    Great follow up to the last post, Dustin. I’m with you on this.

    I would be who I am today without the community around me. Did you know that there are more than 100 different people that Paul mentions by name in the Bible. And there were probably 100’s more that he didn’t mention. There are about 30 people alone that he mentions just in the 16th chapter of Romans! And these are all people in whom Paul “needed” during his ministry or whom he was “thankful for” during his ministry. They were people that he stayed with in their homes, people that helped him escape persecution, people who gave him food and clothing, people who prayed for him and worshiped with him, people who he taught and traveled with, and people who would be willing to die for. That is what I have with my community too.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Ryan, excellent stuff. Those are some really good points-and it is encouraging to see the “facts” about how Paul viewed community as well. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Mark

    April 27, 2011

    Having went to a conservative “Christian” school there was definitely an isolationist/exclusionary/herd-mentality. It was almost as if these people were afraid to sully themselves with the unclean sinners of the world. Thus, they constructed this false edifice of holiness around themselves and were content to just wait for the Lord to transport them out of this evil world.

    I had once heard that there were these extreme Buddhist monks that were nicknamed the “pole people”. These monks actually lived on large erected poles some 50+ feet off the ground. Their idea was that by living on a pole above the earth they would be less likely to be tempted by the evils and distractions of this world. I think many times some well meaning Christians have attempted to create such an environment for themselves.

    The reality is we are not made to be isolationist, or made to live on elevated poles. As Christians we are built for the valleys, and the ordinary stuff of life, this is where we prove ourselves. A false Christianity tells us to separate ourselves from others and bathe in our own holiness. A false Christianity tells us to let the rest of the world go to hell because we are having too much fun living on our “poles”.

    Great post!

    Blessings,

    Mark

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Mark, love your perspective and comments. Really.. thanks for sharing.

      “Christians we are built for the valleys, and the ordinary stuff of life, this is where we prove ourselves.” >>> Love that…. we weren’t built to “do life” alone but rather with others for those kinda things.

      Reply
  • ThatGuyKC

    April 27, 2011

    Dustin, you bring the A-game every time. Awesome post.

    I don’t know that I struggle with being an “isolationist”, but I do fight with being selfish (which does have some overlap). It’s one of the biggest challenges I’m trying to overcome as a husband and father.

    Instead of saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t need this person in my life right now”, I want to switch my thinking and tell myself, “Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.”

    Money.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      Thanks buddy, I appreciate that.

      I can relate for sure – as a husband/father, I am learning to intentionally prefer my wife, and intentionally prefer my kids. While I would love for it to be about me….let’s try to not go down that road. :)

      Reply
  • Keri

    April 27, 2011

    I definitely struggle with being an isolationist. When I’m around 3 kids all day (and sometimes all night!) long, it’s easy for me to think I “deserve” alone time. But, I know that I need to be with others. When I get too isolated, I get really self-absorbed. It’s like being alone breeds selfishness. I find that to prevent this, I really have to be a part of regularly scheduled time with others, i.e. Bible study, small group, Friday coffee with the bff, Monday at home date night with the hubs, getting to church on the weekends. If I don’t schedule it, I’ll avoid it for weeks on end. Then I get really grumpy and even turn into a pumpkin.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      >>>”When I get too isolated, I get really self-absorbed.”

      I think that is the path isolation leads to. For sure!

      Thanks, Keri. I like how you schedule out those times – probably makes it easier for you (and us) to follow through with it.

      Reply
  • Donald Borsch Jr

    April 27, 2011

    I don’t struggle with this at all. I hate everyone equally, and I deserve to be left alone instead of having to put up with all the whining and moaning about being weak and needing to express “feelings” and how no one understands you and blah blah blah.

    Okay, I was kidding. (I wonder how many people were horrified?)

    D, I will defer to what Keri said above:
    “When I get too isolated, I get really self-absorbed. It’s like being alone breeds selfishness.” She nailed it for me with those two lines.

    Hey, how’s that baby Harper these days? I wrote her an email, but she hasn’t responded. I reckon she’s just way busy being awesome.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      You sent her an email??? Resend it over (or I’ll check my spam folder). I’ll have to get on her… she should be better in her email response times. :)

      Reply
  • Michelle

    April 27, 2011

    I’m gonna be completely honest and probably get beat up here, but I keep hearing people say that God places importance on relationships. I know that iron sharpens iron. I get it. We need at times to have people counteract us. However, I still am not buying into this whole idea that we NEED people. Maybe I’m so much of an “Isolationist” that I can’t see anything else, but for me, people have been so hurtful and such a let down to me, the only place I can run is to Jesus. Maybe its this phase I’m in, but people to me are reminders of how sinful we are – not how glorious Jesus is. If I stick around any one person too long, I start to really wonder why God made man. I could go on…but my point is, all this community stuff that I keep reading on blogs lately and for the last 6 months in this christian blogging circles, I’m asking myself, where is that in the Bible? Where does it say I have to have a bunch of groupies in order to thrive? I don’t know. I’m a cynic. I like my one friend, my husband and kids, and thats about it. As to your other points though, I do think that we all tend to be a little too self serving. Like when you say you don’t want to call up a friend because you don’t need them when you should be asking if they need something. That’s a great point. We are all so selfish. I think people that were raising families when our parents and grandparents were kids were much more of a community than we are now. Women got together and did laundry or farmed. They would talk. They would help with each others kids. Now days, everyone is so isolated and private. It makes it so hard to have trustworthy relationships I think.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      For sure! I think today’s society is so isolated in general. Personally, I interact with one house in our cul-de-sac… the others? No clue who they are (other than the occasional wave). It is easy to stay at home… have minimal interactions…. etc… Believe me, I can totally relate.

      And, Michelle – you’re spot on. Man is imperfect (selfish, sinful, prideful–you name it). I would contend that is the very reason why we need likeminded people to “do life” together.

      Always, appreciate your transparency Michelle. I think that is the #1 characteristic of an authentic community.

      Reply
      • Madge

        July 19, 2016

        By WONKO 11. März 2007 – 01:11Wie wahr, wie wahr…Aber es gibt taa;ltum&schlich Menschen die den noch nicht kennen – Ich weiss auch nicht warum, ich empfehle den seit Jahren wirklich allen Leuten :-)

        Reply
    • Melissa Brotherton

      April 28, 2011

      Can I respond to this? I grew up thinking that it was sinful for me to desire relationships other than God. We sang songs about how He is all I need, my all in all, I am complete in Him. All of this is true…BUT. He is a relational God (why else would He have created us for relationship with Him) and we are made in His image. He said in the beginning, that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). So, God created a helper suitable for him. Then, in Hebrews the author says, “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25a) The purpose of community is not to fill what we can only get from God, but to compliment it. I wrote a post about this last year (http://melissabrotherton.com/2010/08/25/youre-not-all-i-need/) because I was wrestling with the topic.

      Reply
  • Marlee

    April 28, 2011

    Hey Dustin,
    This is an interesting topic because I think we can become isolationists accidentally. I have to be very cautious of this when it comes to my work. If I don’t keep God first and I can forget that I’m here to serve others and when that happens, it’s like a domino effect. It becomes about me and what I want and before you know it, I’m in isolationist mode. Ironically, it’s in those times I feel most miserable. Thank goodness my awareness has improved in those areas and those moments are few and far between.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      Marlee- thanks for the comment. I think the “cause and effect”/domino effect is right on. When the unexpected happens, does it push us to a point where we just want to be alone (maybe for the wrong reasons)? Interesting thoughts!

      Reply
  • Melissa Brotherton

    April 28, 2011

    You struck a chord with me on this, Dustin. Especially when you said, “Instead of saying to myself, ‘Oh, I don’t need this person in my life right now,’ I want to switch my thinking and tell myself, ‘Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.'”

    Although I’m capable of doing much on my own, the point is allowing others to impact our lives. They need to know we need them, as much as we need support and encouragement. I really enjoyed your thoughts here, Dustin. :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      Thanks, Melissa – I appreciate the kind words. I know I am guilty more often than not of saying, “I’m good. No need to connect with so and so… they seem to be doing just fine right now.” While that very well might be the case, that internal prompting might be God’s way of saying, “Dustin… this person needs you right now. Just reach out to them and see how they’re doing.”

      Reply
  • Portland Dad

    April 28, 2011

    Finding that balance is always the key. the same behavior with different intentions lead us to two different places spiritually. Thanks for this.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      absolutely. agree with you on the importance of balance. thanks for the comment, james!

      Reply
  • Christian Hollingsworth

    April 28, 2011

    I like to think of myself as a person who isn’t isolated, but I think at times in my life I force it upon myself. By trying to be the best, trying to be perfect in all that I do, trying to do things on my own and by myself. It’s certainly not the way to do things – as it can quickly become stressful, difficult and taxing.

    I think what’s helped me most, this year, is realizing that I just can’t do everything on my own. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes – and rely on another.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      May 2, 2011

      Exactly. Thanks for the thoughts and perspective Christian. I appreciate the comment as well.

      Reply
  • Lizzie

    April 28, 2011

    *Sigh*. I don’t know as I really do much to curb my isolationist mentality. I try, but I could try harder. I’m a definite introvert and sometimes that can really make me behave selfishly.

    Thanks for making me think on this again! Loved your phrase, “Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.” One I’ll remember.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      Cool. Glad you had a ‘takeaway’ from this. :)

      Reply
  • Jk Allen

    April 28, 2011

    Hey Dustin,

    A simple adjustment of thought and action goes such a long way doesn’t it. Instead of viewing a situation on how to separate yourself, to how can I be here for someone in a bad situation can change someones life. And, the good act promotes others to follow course.

    Sometimes I fall into the isolationist mode. I don’t do it purposely, but I just get caught up in the world. And when I do, things don’t feel right – like I’m missing a major part of something…or if I’ve lost something.

    I may not make it to comment on all of you posts Dustin, but trust me, I read everything you write here. And I love it. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      >>>”…the good act promotes others to follow course.”

      I think we forget that sometimes… the importance of inspiring others to do the same (whether friends, our spouse, our children). People are watching us, and how we respond to situations is noticed.

      Thanks, Jk. You rock!

      Reply
  • chris vonada

    April 28, 2011

    Dustin,

    I’m one of these giving people that is always trying to take care of others so I have to be intentional about isolating myself in thought and meditation. At the same time, I’m also not one to readily ask for help from others, I have to remember to humble myself at times to do this. Great post!! Thank you :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 29, 2011

      sure thing, thanks Chris! you said, “not one to readily ask for help from others”…. um, yeah… that is me too. :)

      Reply
  • Pingback: Don’t Keep It In | AbrahamChronicles.com

  • Melaine Hwang

    July 14, 2019

    Hello!

    You Need Leads, Sales, Conversions, Traffic for abrahamchronicles.com ?
    I Will Findet…

    Don’t believe me? Since you’re reading this message then you’re living proof that contact form advertising works!
    We can send your ad to people via their Website Contact Form.

    I WILL SEND 5 MILLION MESSAGES VIA WEBSITE CONTACT FORM

    IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, Contact us => lisaf2zw526@gmail.com

    Regards,
    Hwang

    Reply

Leave a Reply