Social Animals, Wasted Time, Loneliness, Survivor, and Link Love
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Last winter, just around this time, I was on a drive alone listening to an interviewhad with . In the interview, Emma said something like, “We’re social animals and at the end of the day we go with the pack; we go with the herd of people who will harm us the least.”
I pulled over my car and scrounged around for a piece of paper and pen to write it down. I don’t know why that phrasing resonated with me, but probably because I think negatively of echo-chambers and homogenous groups. I need those who think and live differently in my everyday life. If I don’t have them, I become stale and stagnant and still. But Gannon is right, no one deliberately puts themselves in harm’s way. We don’t hang out with those who bully or demean us, gossip about or slander us, argue with us mercilessly or think everything we do is wrong.
For a long, long, long (too long) time I’ve felt there was some kind of virtue in opening myself up to critique, attacks, or “correction.”1 I thought if someone said something was wrong with me, they were automatically right and I had to grovel, scurry, and penitent myself until their approval was won back. Enough years of that though, you begin to believe the words they’re saying, you become the thing you’re trying hardest to avoid becoming.
I think my intention was good: I wanted to be humble, I wanted to be made aware of my blindspots, I wanted to be teachable, and ultimately, I wanted to be a good, submissive girl. As my views on gender roles began to expand and grow, though, I realized being submissive was a terrible ultimate goal for an image bearer of God. Instead I began to ask myself, “What does it mean to simply be the person God made me to be?” Or, in the words of Andy Crouch, “What does it look like to be magnificently myself?”
Those are hard questions to answer when you are convinced there is nothing magnificent about you, that your personhood is wholly wrapped up in being beneath the strongest people in the room. Marrying Nate, having him for a partner for almost a decade, has been a slow education in believing the best about myself, believing what God believes about me. I’m still not there but living with someone who never intends harm to me, who never lords anything over me, who never demands or even asks for my submission, has loosened up the dirt around the root of insignificance.
A strange thing has happened in that time too, though. The less the root of insignificance has held strong, the more the bud of boundaries has bloomed. I’ve mostly stopped putting myself in harm’s way anymore. What love actually is has become clearer to me than ever before. What love looks like when it’s given and received has become clearer. The selflessness of love, the long-suffering of love, the assumption of the best of love, the patience of love, and so on. The more I experience it, the more I want to experience it and give it to others.
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