I find it most interesting that God made us so that we need each other. He did not intend us to live in isolation, but to be mutually dependent on one another.
Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford makes this observation: “There is nothing more detrimental to a person’s life than isolation. There is no more destructive influence on physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and us from them.” Zimbardo strongly believes that modern people struggle so much because we have lost the power of community.
I see this clearly in the lives of so many men I encounter. They do not allow any other men to ever really know them because they fear: “You would not really like me if you knew all of my struggles and fears. You would not think I am a real man.” So many men live their lives suffering in silence.
Many of you are probably familiar with the name Kevin Love. He is a great basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers who are currently playing in the NBA finals. Back in November, he began having anxiety attacks and found himself overcome with fear. There was an article written by him titled “Everyone is Going Through Something.” In the article he says:
I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball — but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.
I know it from experience. Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act. You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own. So for 29 years of my life, I followed that playbook. And look, I’m probably not telling you anything new here. These values about men and toughness are so ordinary that they’re everywhere … and invisible at the same time, surrounding us like air or water. They’re a lot like depression or anxiety in that way.
Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need. So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.
Please hear this, when you share your struggles and fears with others, it is like shining a bright light on them. And when you shine a light on your fears, they lose their power over you.
I have concluded God does not want us to live in isolation, though at times it makes us feel safe. One day we will all be faced with the realization that there is a deep yearning in our hearts that we want to be loved; not for what we have accomplished, but for who we really are. However, we must face the truth that this requires us to be fully known by someone else.
To read more by Richard or find out about The Center for Executive Leadership visit our website at www.thecenterbham.org