Friday, December 20, 2013


People don’t get happy or get healthy or heal all on their own.We need other people to do that. We need other people to call us out on our behavior. We need other people to pick us up when we’ve fallen. We need other people to take a bottle out of our hands, and we need other people to help put hope back inside our heads and our hearts when we’re hurting. No matter what life looks like, we all need support. It’s why we get married and have families and stay in touch with friends. A good story requires more than one character. And a good life requires more than a singular existence.

We all want --need-- to be connected. It’s why everyone in line at Starbucks is head down on their iPhone because we want to tap into the familiar and forgiving space of an old friend, family member or someone we love. We’re continually longing for that sense of connection and meaning. Yet sometimes, when it comes to pain, we have a strange relationship with community and being connected to others.

It’s easy to live in community at birthday parties or at Thanksgiving or Christmas. When we need help, however, it suddenly seems pretty easy to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. The word “community” starts to look a lot more like the word “accountability.” And the last thing anyone who’s depressed or addicted or hurting wants is someone who knows and loves them well enough to look them in to the eye and say “You’re not doing so well. And you need help.”

The last thing we want is someone to keep us accountable. We’re scared of that. And maybe we’re scared of it because deep down we know we need it the most. I’ve lived in those moments of isolation. Often they become more than moments... they become days, and days become weeks, and weeks become months, and suddenly you’re so disconnected from everyone else, you realize that you’ve become completely disconnected from yourself.

There is a form of philosophy called Ubuntu. It can be described as this.   “A person is a person through other people. I can’t be all I can be, unless you are all you can be. I am, because we are.”

Beneath the poetry of those lines, there’s also a heavy truth. We find our meaning in other people. We find our love in other people. We find joy in other people. So why, when it comes to recovery and healing a hurt soul, do we look to ourselves for all the answers? To me, accountability via other people is the most often neglected approach to healing and hope. Perhaps because it’s easier to tell someone to see a doctor or start taking a pill. Maybe we undervalue the role we can play in someone else’s recovery. Maybe we’re just scared to step into that role. I just know that people need each other. And they need each other the most when life looks heavy and painful.