Is it just me, or are we more socially aware than ever in these days of self-isolation? It’s kind of ironic, when you think about it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more aware of what’s going on in the lives of others as I am in these days where I’m being instructed to keep to myself.
I’ve spent the last year, as many have, checking in on others. I have my daily list of phone calls and Skype dates. It keeps me aware of the comings and goings, opinions and attitudes, actions and behaviours of everyone around me…even though they’re not around.
My social-awareness also makes me more self-aware of my own opinions, attitudes, actions, and behaviours that are prone to rise to the surface and make others aware of them, whether I want them exposed or not. You know the feeling? Comparison seeds are planted, envy stirs, jealousy invades, and resentment takes root. Before I know it, I don’t want to know everything I know. Ignorance is bliss, after all.
Then, in my self-pitied social awareness, I get down on myself. As I consider my own “happy” isolation box, I deny myself my honest feelings. I shouldn’t be feeling the way I’m feeling. Look at everybody who has it so much worse than me. Knowing what others are up against in these days of social isolation, it’s hard to allow myself the freedom to feel my own feelings of loss, sadness, and household claustrophobia. What’s my problem?
Both these perspectives end up in the same place—socially-aware self-pity. That’s where I ended up.
I had just read a heart-wrenching, Facebook post written by my oldest daughter—unreachably, physically distant. She put into words what I was feeling. Then, I thought of my son and his new bride a day’s drive away—again physically distant. The moping continued.
So, I went for a self-pity-party walk by myself on this socially isolated but needing time alone day. And something happened that allowed me to put my feelings into words. As I walked a small plane flew above me. For those who have followed my grief journey, you’ll know that my son, Ben, flew a small plane just two weeks before he died. Since his death, every time a small plane flies above us, we look up, wave, and say, “Hey, Ben! Love you. Miss you.” On this particular day, in my self-wallowing wanderings, I looked up to see the plane and in my heart, asked Ben how things looked from his new heavenly vantage point. What was he aware of that I wasn’t? I could no longer hold back the tears I’d kept at bay.
I shared my thoughts and processed my pent-up emotions with my husband and he gave me a gift: understanding, validation, and permission. He understood what I was feeling. He told me it was not wrong to feel what I was feeling. And he gave me permission to go ahead and feel what I was feeling.
I’d like to offer you the same gift today. There are others who are feeling what you’re feeling. So, be honest about how you’re feeling. There’s no shame in feeling what you’re feeling. If you’re kicking yourself when you’re down, find someone who will pick you up. Someone who loves you and knows you and understands what you’re facing. Someone who won’t judge you for your feelings, but rather, someone who will help you look up and see things from a new perspective.
Perspective is what we all need in these days of social-isolation, isn’t it? Sometimes in our social-awareness, all we need is to know that we’re not alone in our feelings, thoughts, and responses to the world around us. Others are facing the same things. Some on an even greater awareness level than us. But it doesn’t change our own feelings and thoughts. It doesn’t make what we’re experiencing or what we’re feeling any less real than what others are experiencing or feeling. They’re just ours to feel.
Perhaps what I’ve shared from my socially-aware heart today will help put some of your own feelings into words. If that’s the case, here’s an eternal perspective for you: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:5-7).
When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory! In the meantime, know you’re not alone in what you’re feeling.
And, maybe take a moment to enjoy this song, by Matt Redman.
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.