We don’t need to be ashamed of our need for others

Written by Bonnie Pue

I won’t forget the way my friend leaned in that day, eyes brimming with tears, ready to whisper her confession. We had been talking about her relationship and the inner turmoil she was facing.

“Do I actually believe the sexual ethic I’ve been taught all my life?” Understandably, this turmoil had brought inconsistency in her behaviour and her relationship with the guy she was dating. We’ve all experienced that kind of messiness, haven’t we?

Now here she was, ready to open up her heart in a deeper way:

“I just don’t want to be alone.”

She had found a way to distill her desire to the essence. What marked this moment so vividly in my mind was how ashamed she appeared as she admitted it. Why did she feel this was something to be ashamed of?

I’ve thought often of this conversation ever since. In a culture that venerates self-reliance, it is hard to acknowledge our need. We are pushed and pulled towards independence. The moment we are capable of doing something for ourselves then it is expected of us from that day onward.

It is a cruel mixture of external pressure and internal pride that makes it so difficult to ask for help, or to invite someone to come close.

For hundreds and thousands of years, the majority of humans lived in community. They wouldn’t have been able to survive alone, and so developed mutualistic connections. In these settings, a person would have had to be deliberate to find those quiet moments of seclusion.

Nowadays, with increasing independence, technology, and automation, we see that a growing percentage of the Canadian population is single, living alone, and often going through the common rhythms of life on their own. Instead of purposing to find alone time, many now must exert great effort to become a part of an authentic community.

If we’re honest, we really do want someone to have our back. We want the giving and receiving that is the nature of love. It isn’t only romantic love or sex that we want, but companionship and other forms of intimacy too. Like Adam in the garden, we have moments where we stand in childlike innocence and nod when God puts words to what we have discovered: “It’s not good that we should be alone.”

In the account of creation found in the book of Genesis, we read that God shaped Eve to be the answer to Adam’s first problem—his longing for companionship. At their meeting, Adam celebrated Eve and could see that she was enough like him to be a fitting partner, but different enough from him to complement him. Her strengths would cover his weaknesses and he would willingly offer his strengths to cover her weaknesses.

Then Genesis goes on to say, “They were naked and unashamed.” They knew each other completely yet were unafraid of rejection. How interesting that as soon as sin entered the landscape, the first death they experienced was a crippling self-consciousness that caused them to hide from God and each other by making coverings for themselves. Their previously unhindered relationships had become a scary place.

Here we are, thousands of years later, with the same complexity. We don’t want to be alone, but we are scared to let others see us as we truly are. This fear stops many young men and women from engaging in healthy dating relationships or stepping into the covenant of marriage.

Or, this fear prompts some of us to undress too quickly, using sexual attraction and experiences to gain at least one form of connection. For some, this feels less vulnerable than baring their soul and risking that rejection.

But there is something better for us. We don’t need to be ashamed of our need for others. Jesus knows we have a real need, and He is not frustrated by our desires.

There are no perfect friends, and you will never find a perfect spouse. In my experience, marriage and friendships cannot handle that level of pressure. Instead, we must learn to look to the Unfailing One.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 4, we can read the account of Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. She had quite the string of broken relationships, with five failed marriages, and was now living with a boyfriend. Maybe her confession would be similar to ours: “I just don’t want to be alone.”

I love Jesus’ message to her: “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NASB).

You were designed for relationship. We were made for each other, but ultimately, it is only God who can satisfy the full need of our hearts. When we begin to drink deeply from the water that Jesus offers us, we will find ourselves satisfied in a way that prepares us for a more authentic connection in friendship, in community, and in marriage.

When we are satisfied by Christ, instead of running from one person to the next, we will be able to show up wholeheartedly, able to discern how to build healthy connections with people. Today, I want to encourage you to pause and invite the Lord to satisfy your heart’s longings, just as He promised He could do for that woman at the well.

Bonnie Pue is a mother of six and co-founder of The Union Movement along with her husband, Bryan. The Union Movement exists to help people find wholeness in the areas of identity, sexuality, and relationships with a gospel-centred approach. You can find more from her on Instagram at @theunionmovement and @bonniepue.