In order to advance spiritual discipline for myself and for our readers, I’m starting a new series on biblical meditation. I made a post about this here if you want to read some of the steps you can take to improve your walk with Christ. I hope this series helps motivate you to do meditation on your own personal time. Remember to memorize the passages and reflect on them throughout the day.
One who has isolated himself seeks his own selfish desires; he rejects all sound judgment. – Proverbs 18:1
This is a fairly straightforward statement, but its deeper than you’d think. Why is isolation tied to pursuing selfish desires? First, it should be noted that Proverbs should be treated as wisdom/proverbial literature and cannot be interpreted as making absolute statements for all situations. For example, in this passage, it seems obvious that not all isolation is tied to pursuing selfish desires as solitude can be beneficial for rest, meditation, prayer, etc. However, I think it is clear from the text itself that it is referring to someone who has separated himself from society when he should otherwise be there (hence, he rejects sound judgement). A perfect example of this are what Japanese people call an otaku. This refers to someone who has such an extreme devotion to anime that he never leaves home. They feed their need for social interaction with dating simulation games and get married with their favorite anime characters. Even more disturbing are their sexual activities that I will not mention here. Another example would be a certain kind of monk that deems it wise to live alone for long periods of time. It is not as obviously wrong as the first example, but it is still a form of isolation.
The Selfishness of Isolation
What it is it about isolation that is a selfish desire? I think it’s because isolation is normally an act of the self for the self at the exclusion of others. This excludes those individuals who have been unfairly excluded from the community, but it does refer to those who exclude themselves from the community when they otherwise ought to be there. Now why should we think they ought to be there? Precisely because as rational beings we are social creatures. At our moment of birth, we are born into a community known as the family. The family itself is normally situated within a bigger community if it is looking for an optimal means of building their family because of the resources that are available for them. The individual itself is capable of communication and for centuries upon centuries humans have been communicating to each other. Not only do we communicate, but we form important relationships with friends and our future spouses. In other words, Proverbs is arguing that it is a necessary part of being a human that we participate in a community because that is our social responsibility. Humans need each other, even if for some reason, that does not always work out well.
By doing the opposite of this, we’re neglecting our social responsibilities to others and placing exclusive focus to ourselves. And according to natural law, this is immoral. A person may object that this does not apply to monks since their devotion is to God alone. This is true to an extent and I do not mean to demean them, but I think God said “It is not good for man to be alone” for a reason. How could this be if it were not proper for us to fulfill that need? I do not think it makes sense to object that God fulfills this need anymore than it makes sense to object that we do not need physical food because God is our spiritual food. Even though I respect their devotion to God, this practice just doesn’t seem biblical (Hebrews 10:25). Less religiously though, I think just isolating yourself from an important friend or an important spouse can lead to trouble. Not only is the act of isolation itself selfish, but you’re more inclined toward selfish thoughts and acts because of it. I know we all have different excuses for isolating ourselves sometimes, but I think the lesson to be learned here is not to listen to such thoughts.
Let me just give you a personal example. I used to be an isolated person because of how inferior I felt myself to be. No one seemed to care about me but I thought that this was what I deserved. If I was at a party, I’d feel as if I didn’t belong. So I’d walk away and listen to Linkin Park and get lost in the thought of who I wanted to be. The reality is, I brought this isolation to myself by comparing myself others. I didn’t have the looks, I didn’t have the personality, and I didn’t have the courage to change. Instead I got lost in selfish thoughts and practices. At times I would feel depressed, even, but it wasn’t often. To this day, sometimes I’ll isolate myself from someone important to me because I feel like I have let them down or just don’t know how to handle something. Whenever something like that happens, I notice myself crawling back to my old ways. I may wish God would take my life away or that I could be something that I am not. So as I contemplate on this verse, I begin to realize that I cannot isolate myself for a moment, no matter how painful it may be to do otherwise.
Have you experienced something similar, if just for a moment? Don’t isolate yourself. Sin creeps at your door when you’ve closed that door for others. If your sin seems to increase during isolation, it’s a good means of pinning down its likely cause. Loneliness is a powerful motivator for sins like pride and lust. So be careful what doors you close and what doors you leave open. If you ever need a friend, just “Ask” me or leave a comment below. I want to be here for you and I know you need it because I was once like you. The best remedy is prayer and fellowship with other believers. Take God’s promises that He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and use them to overcome loneliness.