No man is an island. We’re all interconnected with each other whether we’re aware of this or not. In fact, much of how we understand our very selves is reflected through our relationships with others.
It’s clear Adam had a deeper appreciation of himself after he first met Eve – a fellow human who was like him but also very different. And it was through his relationship with her that he was better able to understand his embodied being. And this continues to play out in all our relational contexts.
For instance, we initially gain a sense of self from the loving gaze of our parents. To know we’re seen by another helps to establish our budding identity. Later we come to understand our embodied maleness by identifying with the ways we’re like the other men in our lives and not the women.
And throughout our adulthood we continue to discover ourselves through our relationships with others. We might learn through individuals who complement who we are, or who might parallel us in some way.
For example, we might better understand our introverted tendencies in relationship with those who are more energized socially, or vice versa. And our logical nature might be made clearer in relationships with those who are more emotionally expressive. Either way, our mutual differences shed light on the nature of our souls.
In the same way, connecting with like-minded others helps to affirm some deep part of who we are as well. Fellow sports fans, artists, intellectuals, and the like allow us to see ourselves clearer through our shared likeness.
To be sure, iron sharpens iron, while Eve still brings things into contrasting focus.
Whatever it looks like, we need each other to see ourselves clearly. This doesn’t negate our need for regular times of solitude and private soul searching. But it’s a reminder we’re relational to our core, and that we need others to reflect back to us our very selves.
In the end, God has given us relationships in part for us to discover who we are. We cannot do this alone, as we need the similarities and differences we find in others to reflect back to us ourselves more clearly.