“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (I Peter 3:8,9).”
I admit it. I am not much of a people person. In fact, I have a hard time liking many people. But, hey, a lot of people deserve not to be liked.
The thing is, people need each other. I don’t think I believed that until recently. However, after some reading, thinking and personal experience I am coming around to the idea that relationships are indispensable, whether they are good ones or not.
One of the themes of “Follow the River”, a novel about the journey of two women through the wilderness of 18th century America, is how people need each other’s companionship. Mary Draper Ingles and her travel mate, an old woman named Ghetel, are not getting along as they near the end of their trek. Indeed, that is an understatement.
In one chapter, Ghetel tries to kill and eat Mary. She is so hungry she resorts to cannibalism. Mary manages to escape her during the tussle for her life and crosses the river which they are following to get away.
As Mary travels down the river by herself, she begins to miss Ghetel despite the earlier fight. She spots her across the river the following morning and they begin to converse. Ghetel apologizes and begs to be with Mary again. She communicates to Mary that she misses her. Mary still doesn’t trust Ghetel, and won’t cross the river. But she is not about to abandon her in the wilderness, and is glad about the communication.
In another novel, an alternate history called “The Year of Rice and Salt”, Bold is a Mongol warrior who is making his way through eastern and southern Europe during the Middle Ages. The continent is empty because 99 percent of the people have died from plague.
He only meets one lonely European, who through the language barrier describes to Bold how his own family has died. They don’t know each other, but they share a fire and food for a night. They both need companionship.
Bold is eventually captured by some thugs who intend to sell him into slavery. He doesn’t mind so much because he is at least traveling with people as they put him in a boat and take him across the Mediterranean. Bold is willing to be a slave if it means he can interact with human beings.
The Bible is not naive about the human condition. Just reading some of the work of the wise author of Proverbs tells us that. For example, He describes how people are subject to selfishness, laziness, and loose tongues (Proverbs 18:1-2,9). We live in a fallen world with fallen people.
Despite the less than perfect world we live in, God’s plan is that man should not be alone. When He created Adam, He also made Eve (Genesis 2:18).
If there are two people who had cause not to stay together, it is those two. After disobeying God by eating of a tree He had forbidden to them, they could have split apart. Adam blamed Eve for the whole thing (Genesis 3:12). Eve was probably angry with Adam for not being a good leader and blaming her, too. Yet, they hung together.
Bad relationships are better than none. Poor human attachments can be improved, also. The Bible, prayer and church are some good places to start learning how to turn bad relationships into good ones.
I have awoken to te need for people late in life. I believe I have something of a genetic disposition to being a recluse. The men in our family have a tendency to become curmudgeons as we get older. But it’s not fated that people become hermits and if it has already happened, we don’t have to stay hidden away.