A while back I heard that a person needs to be in contact with an average of six people per day to have a healthy, balanced outlook in life. We need people to help us avoid the little hangups and the foibles and vain imaginations that tend to build when we are continually alone. I can see the wisdom in that; being a homeschooling mom, I need further input than just my 11-year-old son or I start thinking in sillier, wierder terms than are normal for a woman my age (which can already be a tendency of mine). If I'm not around enough people, I start pondering my own self, pitying myself for my hurts, priding myself in my strengths, championing my "rights," and thinking any number of unhealthy things that have mostly to do with...me. You can see the effects of extreme isolation in the typical hermit, who becomes more antisocial and strange the longer he is alone.
In any case, I think the scale of interaction works a little differently for Christians (well, for all of us, but only Christians will fully comprehend what I'm saying here). We can't live by that same secular scale, though the general concept is basically sound. We are able to round ourselves out only by a whole level of input which the unbelieving world does not access. I was going to blog about all of these things in one entry, but it is too big for one; the element that makes it too big is...God. I was thinking of making a somewhat arbitrary or subjective point system for how much benefit various people give us, but God is beyond a point system. His attributes are all infinite; the only thing that pares down how to score His importance is that we are finite and can only receive so much--or His input would likely destroy us. It's something like when God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock in Exodus 33 and went by, and Moses could only grasp so much of who He was, or when Moses came off of Mount Sinai in Exodus 34 and had to wear a veil because his face reflected the glory of God to the alarm of the people.
One means that Christians recognize (and might not take into account to apply to that 6-person theory) as a method for keeping themselves on track, sane, level-headed, is the power of prayer and Bible reading. They are closely intertwined, in that prayer is talking with God, and the Bible is also God's word, breathed into humanity through the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." It's useful in influencing others, but firstly in being influenced ourselves. It has a way of reaching and operating where no uninspired word or thought can approach: Hebrews 4:12-14 says, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." I expect that if a believer were isolated, even in a prison cell, with no outside human contact, if he had the Scriptures either before him or memorized, he could stay sane and functional by continual dependence on the Scripture he has been given and the ever-available power of prayer. The Scriptures are something of a two-fold influence, where the reader is reached by God through His Holy Spirit, but also by the writer through whom the word was written.
All the more than a believer isolated in a prison cell, we believers in more average circumstances have every ability to lead a fruitful, functional life reflecting God's glory, if only we stay in prayer and His word and apply it daily in our lives, whether in guiding our own thoughts or interacting with others. We may do great things, if we were so equipped; Johann Kepler was inspired by God's word in his life such that he called it "thinking God's thoughts after Him." The way he applied God's inspiration led him to make useful discoveries foundational to science, based on His word. Interaction with others, I believe, is also desirable and healthy, but God's input is the essential basis, the foundation. Without it, the way we live our lives will be far less than optimum. If we don't access His glory, how can we reflect it in the way we live? We can only think God's thoughts after Him if we have learned what He is thinking!
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.