Mother Teresa once described loneliness as “the leprosy of the modern world.” She also said, “The feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible form of poverty.” Nearly 40% of American adults admit to feeling lonely.
I can think of some popular songs I’ve sung: “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Only the Lonely,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Die.”
In spite of the fact that many of us struggle with loneliness, no one wants to admit it. We are quick to say, “I’m busy” because that makes us sound somewhat important. But have you noticed you don’t hear people say, “I’m lonely.” To say those words is sort of like saying, “I’m a loser.”
Why So Much Loneliness Today?
For one thing, we are more mobile and transient today; we move often. Lots of grandchildren don’t live close to their grandparents. Think, too, about families today. Many of them have experienced marital breakups and family splits. The sense of “clan” doesn’t exist in most families.
Are you familiar with the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putman? Although it was written in 2001, its premise is still relevant. We have become increasingly disconnected from one another. Participation in PTA, civic clubs, bowling leagues, the United Way, monthly bridge clubs, and similar groups is way down.
Some people would argue that technology, and social media in particular, have us more connected than ever. But experts are finding that our growing reliance on technology and social media, rather than face-to-face conversation, is making us feel even more isolated. Why? Our relationships are becoming superficial, virtual, and less rewarding. Social media just gives us an illusion of real connectedness.
And don’t think this is an “old folks” issue. Adults 18-34 are likely to feel lonely more often than the over 55 group.
What Can I Do to Overcome Feelings of Loneliness?
What follows are some practical suggestions to put some hope into your life when you battle feelings of loneliness.
- Don’t think you are weird if you struggle with feelings of loneliness. This is an issue almost everyone deals with. Very few people can’t lay claim to some loneliness.
- Evaluate the level of your friendships. Are all your friends just people on your Facebook or Instagram sites? Or can you point to several close, personal, face-to-face friendships? I’m not talking about being friends with everybody, but having a few really close friends. Proverbs 18:24 reminds us that “one who has friends must show himself (or herself) friendly.”
- Slow your life down. Ever notice how people seem to be in a frantic pace, rushing from here to there, from one appointment to another? Our bodies and our minds need some “slow down,” some time just to reflect on things.
- Develop a hobby or some interest outside of your regular life. These activities have a way of reducing loneliness.
- Live in a way that helps you feel good about yourself. This step includes the way you dress, your personal grooming, and your overall attitude.
- Fight feelings of loneliness by focusing on others. Send someone a card. Make a call. Visit someone. Reach out to a hurting person. These steps get your focus off of you.
- Remember that you might feel lonely, but you are never alone. Your loving Heavenly Father has said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Find a good church where you can plug in and meet people. Practice the presence of God. He, alone, is our source of hope when we feel lonely. The Bible says, “God builds a home for the lonely” (Psalm 68:6).