It’s easy to get why: because we love independence. We’re threatened by losing our autonomy. The most triumphant modern narrative is, “I’m my own person and I call my own shots.” And certainly there’s great truth in valuing individuality.
But just as much as complete dependence on others is a dangerous trap: so complete independence is a romanticized fairy-tale.
No one is meant to do life alone.
Life alone isn’t life, but merely survival.
Life together is thriving, to truly be alive.
Here are three reasons why a journey is never better alone. A friend will:
1) Hold you true.
If you’re only surrounded by yes-men, you’ll fall off every cliff. You’ll be out of touch with reality. You’ll drift into complacency and you won’t grow. If this makes you mad or makes you uncomfortable: you might be heading that way.
We’ve seen this happen a million times. Someone never got the hard talk, so they became their own boss and got blind-sided by a blind spot. Someone never heard the hard truth, and they were enabled and pampered and spoiled into a feeble shadow of their potential.
I’m not talking about someone you know; this isn’t for someone else.
It’s for you. It’s for me. We need the hard talk once in a while, to shake the cobwebs.
We need someone to hold up the mirror to hold us accountable, to say even with a shaking voice, “You’re better than this.”
A friend brings another perspective, another point of reference, another angle, another voice. It can be enough to sober us up. When we get out of character, we need someone who brings us back. We need to be held true to who we really are and who we can become.
2) Hold you up.
Sometimes a friend comes to me and says, “The last six months were really hard. I didn’t think I would make it. I’m almost out of the woods now.”
I ask them about those last six months. Inevitably, I wonder: Why didn’t you come to me sooner?
Maybe they went to someone else, and that’s good. But so often we travel alone through trials because of embarrassment, shame, or pride: none of which should ever be an obstacle to open up. It doesn’t matter that they open up to me, but it has to be with someone.
You and I need each other to rush in when the other person falls.
I get it, though. We feel weird opening up because it exposes weakness. If I ask for help, I’ll look soft and incompetent. I should be way past this. I should have it together by now. This is the independence myth that we’ve been chained to, and it’s prevented so many breakthroughs.
Every time I’ve opened up about my hurt: friends never saw me as weak. It’s because in me, they saw themselves. We’re each just as busted up as the other. We could each say, I know what this is like. And being able to say out loud that This hurts creates a freedom to fall, to know that failure is not the last of me, and to know we have each survived failure and have started over again. When vulnerability is normalized and weakness is our common story, the inverse result is strength and a glimmer of hope.
The more I share pain out loud, the more I meet people who understand.
They’ve been there. They are there.
3) Hold you laughing.
I’ve gone to the movies by myself before, and it’s not fun to laugh alone.
I absolutely believe accountability and constancy are important, and they’re the bedrock of friendships. But it can’t be all about truth and trials. It’s not always that serious.
We need each other to laugh. I mean to really, really let go and laugh.
Without joy: what’s the point? I don’t think friendships are always giggles and games, but if we can’t have a good time, then the other stuff won’t matter.
The point of accountability, by the way, is to encourage each other in productive living so that we can have a greater joy. The point of a constant presence through trials is to walk through fire stronger, so that we can rejoice in victory.
The first time I opened up to my friend about my porn addiction, I instantly became accountable to him.
He helped me through the trial of quitting my fifteen-year addiction. But most of the time, my friend and I just hung out and laughed: about nothing and everything. Most of the time, we had fun. I think if we had only gotten together to talk about “sobriety” and “recovery” and “relapsing,” then I would’ve grown an aversion at the sight of his face.
I just can’t be that dire all the time, and no human is meant to do begrudging soul-work every single hour. The very purpose of that soul-work is to have that greater joy, to rejoice in freedom, and our laughter was a reminder that I didn’t need anything else but the God who loves us and the people we love.
It’s not merely that I can’t do this alone.
It’s that I wouldn’t even want to.