by Teresia Smith
Brene Brown once told a story about a village where all the women washed clothes together down by the river. Later, when they all got washing machines, there was a sudden outbreak of depression and no one could figure out why. It was discovered that the depression was linked to the washing machines. It wasn’t having the washing machines that caused the women to experience depression; however, it was the absence of time spent doing things together with others. It was the absence of community. Why is community so important?
From the time we are small children, we are pushed to become independent. As our abilities increase, we push to do it all ourselves, declining assistance. Somehow we have been taught that not needing others is a show of strength. But the first thing we want to do when we accomplish something is rush to tell someone of our accomplishment. We try to fool ourselves saying we are fine when, in reality, we are lonely, depressed, overwhelmed, and longing for connection. We need others.
Often, those in unhealthy relationships are forced to isolate from family and friends by the controlling partner. Sometimes victims choose seclusion so they don’t have to defend what they know is an unhealthy relationship. Either way, time goes by with no contact and eventually, those friendships fade away. Being separated from people we were once close to just allows an abusive partner to have even more control.
In our post-covid world, it’s harder than ever to find and nurture friendships. We are now accustomed to keeping our distance from others and avoiding gatherings. There are not as many opportunities to gather either. In the original story, everyone gathered at a river, but today, we all have our own washing machines tucked away inside our private homes. There we spend a lot of time online, pretending that the abundance of social media “friends” we have are truly friends we can call on and count on, but in reality we don’t spend much, if any, time with them face-to-face. They are acquaintances, not close friends, and we only see the part of their lives they want to share. Not so many years ago, families gathered for Sunday dinners and spent the afternoon catching up on each other’s lives. Instead of daycares for our children, grandparents or other relatives provided childcare. Today, many families have had to relocate for employment so they don’t live close, grandparents are employed so daycare is needed and weekends are spent catching up on all we didn’t get done throughout the week. Weeknights are booked with ball games and other kid’s activities so we have very limited time to meet up with friends. Unfortunately, in our culture today, making time to nurture friendships has become hard and feels like work.
Brene Brown went on to tell us that living a lonely life actually affects the length of your life. Living lonely shortens your lifespan the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day! The need for personal connection is real. For so long, we just think having close friends would be nice, but not something all that important. It is! It is very important. It is not just a luxury, but it is a necessity. It’s not something you want but something you really need.
So should we forgo our independence? No. You can be independent and still know the importance of allowing other good people into your life. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives we think, oh how nice it’d be to get stranded on a deserted island…but in reality, that island would become a prison of loneliness after a very short time. There is some sort of magic when friends come together and share ideas, struggles, encouragement, and life together. We each have unique talents and gifts and when we all bring those together, we all benefit. There’s an old proverb that states, “Many hands make light work”. Whether it is a job that needs done or a burden that needs carried, having others to share it with lightens the load and makes it more bearable.
Often, those who have experienced abusive relationships struggle to build a support group of friends. Sadly, they probably need it more than most. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. We strive to build support groups where healing and connection take place. For more information, you can reach our Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826. You don’t have to go through life alone.