Loneliness knows no class, race or age: it hits everyone periodically. This is the lack of meaningful contact with other people which is accompanied by sadness, discouragement, a sense of isolation, restlessness, anxiety and an intense desire to be wanted. Lonely people feel left out, unwanted or rejected, even when surrounded by others. I have sent missionaries to East Asia, where they were be in a city of 15 million people and suffered terribly from loneliness.
1. Emotional loneliness: The lack or loss of a psychologically intimate relationship with another person
2. Social loneliness: Feeling aimless, anxious or empty, even “out of it”
3. Existential loneliness: The sense of loneliness which comes from being separated from God and the person feels there is no meaning in life
The Bible and Loneliness:
1. Adam was alone and needed a helpmate
2. Adam and Eve were instructed to multiply the race
3. Adam and Eve broke fellowship with God in their sin
4. OT giants like Jacob, Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Elijah, Jeremiah and even David were lonely at times. Jesus was alone in the garden, John on the isle of Patmos, Paul in prison having been deserted by nearly everyone.
The Causes of Loneliness:
1. Social causes
- Technology: As government and business gets bigger, people feel less significant, smaller and not needed, and people do not develop deep satisfying relationships.
- Mobility: Moving around is much easier, which tears up relationship, separates families, eliminates neighborhoods or a community spirit, and people don’t risk getting close to others in fear of being hurt later.
- Urbanization: As people move into cities together, they really tend to withdraw from one another. There is a fear of strangers, and this leads to suspicion and withdrawal.
- Television: Television enhances separation both by program content and seems to promote superficiality. People view the tube and seldom engage in meaningful communication.
2. Developmental causes: Ellison mentions basic needs that must be met
- Attachment: People need to feel close bonds with other human beings, especially as children. Children separated from parents, divorce and even child abuse can all lead to loneliness.
- Acceptance: Parents communicate this to their children by touching, spending time with them, listening, disciplining, and showing affection. If children are ignored or excessively criticized they will feel worthless.
- Acquiring skills: We all know social misfits. They are often insensitive to the needs and attitudes of others, and they don’t know how to develop smooth interpersonal relationships. They might try to manipulate or force themselves on others which only brings more frustration and increased loneliness.
3. Psychological causes:
- Low self-esteem: This is the opinion we have for ourselves. If it is low we will underestimate our value and withdraw, or if it is too high we will exaggerate our value to the point of conceit. Low self-esteem will cause a person to be weak or shy, and there is a need to depend upon others. When others are not available there comes a sense of insecurity and deep loneliness.
- Inability to communicate: This is at the root of many if not all interpersonal problems. If one can’t communicate, there is a persistent loneliness that follows.
- Self-defeating attitudes: There is greater possibility for loneliness when there is intense competition, struggling for self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, criticism or intolerance for others, holding on to grudges, using other people to satisfy our own egos.
- Hostility: Some people are just innately angry. They seems to feel threatened, frustrated or resentful because of real or imagined injustice. This anger can turn to self-hatred, and into loneliness due to constant complaining and negative attitudes, which will drive people away from them.
- Fear: People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges, which keeps other people out. These can have a fear of intimacy, rejection, or fear of being hurt.
4. Situational causes: Being single, divorced, widowed, grieving, or elderly can be lonely. Those in leadership positions, students away from home, affluent people in a financial crisis, those with deformed bodies or diseases.
5. Spiritual causes: Free will allows us to rebel against the only avenue of salvation for individuals. Existential loneliness comes when we refuse to acknowledge and confess our sin.
The Effects of Loneliness:
1. Isolation: Often but not always.
2. Poor self-esteem: Feelings of worthlessness; failure in relationships or activities; discouragement and negative self-talk.
3. Hopelessness: This can lead to despair or even thoughts of suicide, feeling there is no way out.
4. Alcoholism and drug abuse: As a means of escape.
5. Violence: Some will express their frustrations in destructive ways
Counseling and Loneliness:
1. Admitting the problem: They might feel this admission of loneliness is the same as being a social misfit, unattractive, unable to relate to others.
2. Considering the causes: It is possible to work on the source of the problem and not just the symptoms.
3. Accepting what cannot be changed: Self-esteem can be changed, while a widow’s cannot bring back her husband.
- One must develop an inner life of positive interests, appreciation for what is good in life, and a sense of humor. It is more than positive thinking. It is a rejection of self-pity and a willingness to see the bright side.
- One must develop a lifestyle of keeping in touch. Involve yourself in play, creative activities and daily news which can keep one from a tendency to brood.
- One must develop a religious faith that can keep one in touch with the realities of life, seeing life in its wholeness. One will find meaning which can under-gird the individual.
4. Altering what can be changed: Watch less television, spend more time on family activities, get involved in useful church activities
- Developing self-esteem: People need help for them to see their strengths, abilities, gifts, and weaknesses. People spend a lifetime telling themselves that they don’t look good, are incompetent or are disliked by people. We compare ourselves with others which aids fuels our feelings of inferiority. Every person has value to God, is loved, can be forgiven, has gifts and abilities.
- Taking risks: It takes great courage to reach out to others, even if one has good self-esteem. It can be embarrassing or threatening.
- Learning skills: Many people are social cripples and need to learn basic skills of relationships.
5. Meeting the spiritual need: Jesus and me makes a majority, so why be lonely? Then one can be incorporated into the family, the body of Christ.
- Recognize that as a believer you are adopted into the family of God.
- Get involved in a local body of believers or organization with whom you share beliefs.
- Find a mentor of someone to whom you will be accountable for growth goals and taking risks of getting out of your comfort zone.
- Identify and name your weaknesses, making sure to not put yourself in vulnerable positions.
- Rid yourself from isolating activities such as computer, television, gaming and work toward activities that force you to be in community with others.
- Discover your giftedness in serving others; it’s hard to be lonely when you are serving others. Visit the local homeless shelter and volunteer, there’s nothing like volunteering to put life back into perspective.