In the 1990s, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar proposed a theory: there is a limit to how many friends a person can maintain at once. Now referred to as “Dunbar’s Number,” the theory suggests that most people’s capacity for meaningful relationships drops off after about 150 individuals.
It’s a confusing era for human connection. While rates of loneliness and anxiety are at an all time high, some strive for “relationship minimalism:” the elimination of connection with anyone perceived as burdensome or “toxic.”
Only the gospel can show us the balance. The Bible tells us clearly that we are to bear with difficult people, showing them the same love and dignity God shows the annoying people in His life: us.
Yet the Son of God also turned the world upside down with a group of twelve. He frequently ignored huge crowds to invest time in the people in front of him. Dunbar’s number leads us back to a fundamental lesson: love thy neighbor. The 150 closest people in each of our lives might not be the ones that “spark joy.” But they are our Gospel objective.
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