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Monday, May 7, 2012

Losing Touch

Orthodox Christianity is often frustrating for Westerners to understand because it at once preserves the importance of the individual while stressing the need for community.  I recently did an internet-radio interview, and several questions came up about how people could deal with a situation 'without a priest.'  I'm not saying these people are trying to get out of a relationship with the Church, but that Americans as a whole are usually looking for a way to do things by themselves.

We are a society build around the 'self-help' book, and it is no wonder that we are leading in internet-based sales, where a person can buy and sell without having to deal with other human beings.  Even our basic relationships are heavily masked: I know people who text each other inside the same house!

Here is an example of how far this is going:

Addiction effects our interpersonal relationships.  In fact, the relationship between the addict and the substance/activity will, over time, squeeze out all other relevant relationships.  The damage of addiction is also measured in the addict's inability to maintain and form new relationships.

At the same time, our society is devaluing these relationships.  The internet affords people easier relationships, which in tern makes normal relationships, comparatively speaking, seem more difficult.  This leads to greater stress as one considers how much easier it would be to sit down at a PC and have a chat rather than going to a social activity.  Americans have lost many of their social centers: we don't have pubs, social clubs, or any of what used to provide ways of making new relationships in person.  Nowadays, we meet over the internet.

The problem here is that by increasing the stress of inter-personal relationships, we are setting people up for isolation, which acts as the perfect Petri dish ( for emotional disorders and the onset of addiction.  Isolation is a spiritual killer.

Addicts in recovery know how dangerous it is, which is why the group is important.  The Church has also known this from the beginning: the Apostles were not taught how to 'do it alone.'  The very nature of Christianity is imbued with the necessity of real relationships with others.  Marriage is a Sacrament, in that the union of two human persons is a spiritual experience rather and a temporary living arrangement.  Even monasticism, rooted in the singularity of 'mono-' was founded on the relationships between elders and new monks, and the companionship of fellow strugglers.

We must make sure in our daily lives to not become isolated.  It is important to have regular, meaningful contact with others.  This is especially true if we have jobs that isolate us, and this isolation can even be when we tend to only deal with people wearing the 'mask' of our 'employment identity.'  Sensing that we are known as we really are and valued as such is very important.

Do not let yourself become a prisoner or technology and shallow relationships.  Make contact, and expose yourself to others, no matter how stressful it seems, until the anxiety goes down.  Healthy relationships are healing.

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