The Myth of the Loner

Today's post is a guest post by my friend Bradley Grinnen.

My community is larger than I ever imagined.  I realize this more and more and continually am reminded of this as I make myself more vulnerable to those that I engage with.

I’m going through in incredibly difficult, challenging, and heart-wrenching season, personally, at the moment.  I can’t go into details because of my desire to not make others involved feel uncomfortable or betrayed in any way shape or form.  But suffice it to say, this is one of the most challenging seasons of my life… and I’ve had a few.  It can be extremely lonely and dejecting, not to mention the amount of doubt that is raised in my mind and heart.  I’m certain you have had these seasons if you’re not actually in one right now. 

However, I am being loved.  Loved by those who I talk with on a daily basis.  Loved by those who my main contact is via technology and writing.  Loved by people who are strangers for the most part when I first meet them, but quickly become friends.

There is a pervasive mindset in our society that says the best way to live life is as a ‘loner’ and ‘do it yourselfer’.  This mindset leads us to believe that the more I can accomplish on my own and with my own strength, the greater the person I must be and the more adept I am at this thing called life.  I don’t believe this is true.  You probably don’t either, cognitively, yet you probably hold to it at the very least on a subconscious level.  ‘Loners’ and ‘do it yourselfers’ are only fooling themselves.  I don’t believe that we are ‘wired’ to go through this world alone.  I’ve come to realize this belief is backed by empirical evidence, not just a ‘hunch’ (that is 5 terms in quotes in 1 paragraph… and by no means close to my record).

‘Science Mike’ (another quoted term and the owner of this blog) can back my supposition with hard evidence I’m certain.  He can in fact explain it to you in scientific terms with much greater nuance and clarity than I ever could.  But it is what it is.  I believe the reason we cling to our western modality of holding this mind set of doing things on our own is because we are afraid to be vulnerable.  But it’s a two way street. 

I can’t expect you to be vulnerable with me if I am not vulnerable with you.  It’s not just a give and take thing.  Its an attitude that permeates who we are.  I can only receive your vulnerability to the extent with which I am able to be vulnerable with you.  It would be like putting one hand out to receive the valuable gift that you offer and with the other hand, slap it that gift to the ground. 

And when I use the term community, I am not talking simply about my cultural tribe, faith group, socio-economical group, or any other group that I identify with.  I am talking about any other human being that walks this planet, comes in contact with me, or brushes up against my life. 

I don’t believe we should make ourselves vulnerable to everyone we come in contact with, particularly if they repeatedly harm us physically, spiritually, or emotionally.  But I recognize that the more open and vulnerable I am with those I come in contact with who are safe, the more connected I am to humanity.  The more connected I am to humanity, the more connected I am to myself.  The more connected I am to myself, the more I am able to love myself and receive the love of the Divine.  The more I am able to love myself and receive the love of the Divine, the more I am able to love you and be there for you when you need to be vulnerable.

Being vulnerable isn’t easy and this post isn’t going to be long enough to describe the ‘how to’ of being vulnerable.  But it might nudge you in the direction of opening yourself up to let go of the ‘do it own your own’ mindset.  Where is it in your life that you refuse to let others participate?  What secret do you believe is too horrid to share with someone else?  How might you be denying the ability of others to receive your help because you won’t receive theirs?

Give it a whirl.  Strap in for the ride.  The person you find yourself connecting most to may just be yourself.

Bradley Grinnen is one of the most loving, kind and insightful humans that Mike McHargue has ever met. He's got a blog, and he's on Twitter too.