As leaders, we have a need for solitude and even Jesus at times chose solitary places to retreat to for rest. When solitude becomes isolation though, we can create a whole new problem. I heard a message recently that included the story of Aron Ralston and his harrowing experience of being trapped by himself in the backcountry of Utah’s Bluejay Canyon. He became trapped by an 800 pound boulder and what should have been an 8 hour, 13 mile day hike turned into a fight for his life. After the boulder pinned him by his arm and trying for 5 days to get free, he finally decided his only chance at survival was to self-amputate his hand and free himself. After doing the unthinkable to free himself and amputate his hand with the only thing he had available, his multi tool, he did survive to tell his tale. Although the media heralded him as a hero, and indeed he was unequivocally brave, Ralston admits that if he had followed rule #1 as a hiker to adventure with a buddy or at least tell someone where he was going, his story may have been different.
He decided to explore and hike on his own instead of letting someone know where he would be going and for how long. He needed that accountability for safety. He was an avid hiker, well trained and prepared, yet during that one hike where his need became life or death, he had failed to be connected when he needed it most.
How often have we seen this happen to leaders around us? Or even find we ourselves have stumbled somehow into isolation and the tragedy that can accompany this isolation? Community and accountability require intentional effort. They don’t simply happen on their own. When we are walking through a difficult season or a crisis, this is when we want the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” to show up on our doorstep or in the hospital room; but if we have not fostered those types of intimate, brotherhood relationships during the everyday, normal times in our lives, then they simply can’t just appear. To create transparent relationships that can be trusted and depended on you have to be intentional.
1) Seek the Lord in prayer.
Ask the Lord to get involved and then follow His lead. You probably already have a couple of people in your life that would be willing to work toward a friendship based on accountability. They may well be praying for the same thing in their life.
2) Start the conversation.
When you ask the Lord to bring individuals to mind, then be ready to move on that and begin a conversation with them. Take the risk and step out in obedience. Invite them to coffee, or for a run, but be willing to initiate this first step toward community.
3) Set aside time.
To develop friendship that will move from surface conversation to transparency and accountability, time is required. Set up a specific time each week that works for your schedules where you can connect and consistently meet. Your consistency will show it is a priority in your life.
4) Say what you mean.
If you are going to have the kind of friends that really know you and can walk with you when you struggle but also rejoice with you in the good times, then transparency needs to be a foundational part of that friendship. Transparency begins with you. So say what you mean and mean what you say. If you see some red flags in your friend’s life then you need to be a good friend and say that. And if you are walking too close to your own guard rails then you need to give your friend permission to call you on that as well. This is when friendship becomes “iron sharpening iron” and not just an acquaintance that will eventually fade into your past.
Moving out of isolation and into community takes intention and effort but the rewards are great and can last a lifetime. Relationships found within healthy community create friendships that provide warmth, prayer support and accountability but also potentially could save your life. Aron Ralston discovered that taking on life’s adventures with a friend walking alongside you is the safest and wisest option.
What is holding you back from intentionally stepping into community today?