We might call a person who really doesn't like to be around other people a recluse. We might think of this person as living in a secluded area, or in a house with tall shrubs all around so as to keep people out and their "secret lives" secret. In reality, anyone who lives "shut off" from the world is living a life of a recluse. I am not much into quantum theory, although I have had the privilege of speaking with some amazingly intelligent men and women who do very well in this field. I do appreciate some of the principles they teach, one of which is best stated by Erwin Schrodinger, an Austrian Physicist who studied in this field. He said, "For a solitary animal, egoism is a virtue that tends to preserve and improve the species; in any kind of community it becomes a destructive vice." Well said, Mr. Schrodinger! As long as we live with ourselves and engage with no others throughout this lifetime, we might just find our egocentric lifestyle exactly what we need to survive. If we venture at all into society at large, this egocentricity will be what gives us the greatest conflict!
People who do not get along with others are interested only in themselves; they will disagree with what everyone else knows is right. A fool does not care whether he understands a thing or not; all he wants to do is show how smart he is. Sin and shame go together. Lose your honor, and you will get scorn in its place. A person's words can be a source of wisdom, deep as the ocean, fresh as a flowing stream. It is not right to favor the guilty and keep the innocent from receiving justice. When some fool starts an argument, he is asking for a beating. When a fool speaks, he is ruining himself; he gets caught in the trap of his own words. Gossip is so tasty—how we love to swallow it! A lazy person is as bad as someone who is destructive. The Lord is like a strong tower, where the righteous can go and be safe. (Proverbs 18:1-10 GNT)
The most profound quote about this tendency we have to "isolate" ourselves from others is really from an American preacher. Henry Ward Beecher once said, "Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right use of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own." Chew on that one a while and you will see how Mr. Beecher really nailed this one on the head. Nothing attracts others more than the heart of a man or woman. Conversely, nothing maintains or damages relationships quicker than the heart of a man or woman. The heart is the seat of our emotions, intellect, and connects closely with our spirit. A recluse is self-indulgent, snarling at life, and those who fill the spaces around them.
As long as we live a solitary existence, we are free to be self-indulgent, excessive or unrestrained in the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy our own appetites, desires, and whims. To withdraw from relationship is to become "inward focused". If you know anyone who might just be "me-centered", you will note how quickly the "rules" of conduct they adhere to are really those which they have made for themselves. The rules of conduct which others live by really don't make sense to them, so they create their own. If you haven't guessed it by now, this is quite a dangerous spot to find oneself in. We are not very good at living by the rules - what ever would make us think we could be any better at writing the rules?
We have concluded in our study of the Proverbs that a fool has no interest in understanding - they just want to air their own opinion, follow their own rules, live their own lives. The problem comes when the fool enters into society trying to air that opinion, live outside the rules of society, or seclude themselves. A fool lacks judgement and prudence - often expressing what should be left unsaid or speaking before they hear all the facts. In community, this causes issues. Maybe this is why the fool gravitates to a life of solitary existence, or at least lives communally with those of like foolish behavior.
When the foolishness is allowed to prevail, three things are certain to happen:
- There will be a lack of respect for others. We have a fancy word for this - contempt. Where there is a lack of respect for others, there is also this willful disregard for the rules - disobedience is the norm, not the exception. Authority is really defined by who makes the rules - the fool follows their own set of rules, so they are their own authority.
- You cannot live long around a fool without seeing some hint of shame. While the fool might think it is fine to follow their rules, their willful disobedience to any authority besides their own will result in some expression of impropriety. Fools engage others in their folly, because they really don't know how to keep what they feel or are doing to themselves. In the end, they rope others into shameful behavior which will bring much shame or guilt to those who get roped in.
- In the end, disgrace will enter in because you cannot pursue this lifestyle for long without losing favor with others, or diminishing your standing in the community in which you congregate. Fools will eventually gather a poor reputation and this impacts their feelings of self-worth or self-esteem. Some will take this to heart and will turn to some authority outside of themselves seeking to be restored. Others will just wander aimlessly down this path, living as though the "bad rap" they bear matters little to them.
Fools actually don't know value of community. Community brings us into a place of accountability - as long as those within our "community" have values which point toward submission to authority, a heartfelt commitment of not allowing shame or guilt to define a person, and there is an overriding drive to maintain the reputation which reflects a heart centered on Christ. Only then can we truly say our "strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of our own". Just sayin!