Saturday, February 25, 2012
Part 2 - What Is Loneliness?
What is loneliness? Everyone experiences it at one time or another. My intention with this blog is not to get clinical, but to explore loneliness from a personal and Scriptural perspective. I do believe that there is more than one element to loneliness, and that it deeply effects, not only our social; but also, our spiritual existence.
The following is a good description of loneliness:
Loneliness does not require being alone and is experienced even in crowded places. It can be described as the absence of identification, understanding or compassion. Loneliness can be described as a feeling of isolation from other individuals, regardless of whether one is physically isolated from others or not. It may also be described as a yearning for love or companionship, which is unfulfilled, but cannot seemingly be achieved, or may stem from the lack of love in one's life, and hence may lead to emotions such as rejection, despair and low self-esteem. Feelings of loneliness may be similar to feelings of the death or loss of a loved one.
So, then, loneliness is:
* The absence of identification, understanding or compassion
* A feeling of isolation
* A yearning for love or companionship
Loneliness is more a state of emotion than a state of circumstance, and isn't as much about being alone as it is feeling alone. A person can be in the company of others and still feel completely alone. Why is this? This happens when you feel that no one understand you, or truly knows you.
It is strange to be known so universally yet be so lonely – A. Einstein
Have you ever been in a group of people and at the same time felt completely alone? Even among friends or those closest to you? It's an ironic reality....being surrounded by people yet completely apart from everybody. There is an emptiness and loneliness there. At this point, it really doesn't matter how many friends you may have, or how together you may seem to be on the outside. What a person projects on the outside is often not an accurate representation of what is going on inside.
It's hard to comprehend, yet it happens all the time. Those who seem to have everything going for them, who appear happy and fulfilled on the outside – accomplished, popular, and together -- are often desperately lonely on the inside. People from all walks of life and social strata have experienced this, and although people deal with it in different ways, whether it be isolating themselves completely, participating in social activities, pouring themselves into their work, or whatever other outlet of their choosing, the fact remains that the feelings never really go away, nor are they effectively dealt with. But the question remains, why is it that people who seem so fulfilled on the outside still feel so empty on the inside? Why is it so impossible for them to connect with others, if they have so many people in their lives? Obviously, there is a part of that person that no one sees – shut off from everyone else, and unreachable. The only One whom it was not shut off from is God.
The day that I stopped feeling alone was the day that I came into fellowship with my heavenly Father – the one who created me, and the one who knows the innermost parts of me.
Ps. 139:13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. (14) I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
Loneliness is commonly associated with solitude, or a lack of human companionship. While this is certainly true, that is only one element of it. There is also an entirely different component to human loneliness which goes beyond external human relationships, and touches the very soul of man – the deepest part that no one sees, the internal part that only God can touch. Indeed when I came to Christ, my social life did not immediately change. I was still isolated, lacking friends. Socially-speaking, I was alone...but even so, God's love and grace filled that solitary void, and somehow, I did not feel alone anymore. It was as if the Lord reached down to the very depths of my soul, and communed with me in that unreachable place. I knew that I had found fellowship of the deepest and sweetest kind.
One of the most definable aspects of loneliness is a feeling of disconnect. This can take place in one aspect of the personality, or in the personality as a whole. A person may just feel like something is “missing” in himself, or he may not be able to connect with others at all. Sometimes, in the latter case, the person will isolate himself completely away from everyone else....even if not physically, still emotionally.
The bottom line is that the number of relationships in a person's life is much less important than the quality of those relationships. A person can have a million friends, a huge family, and go to tons of gathering and events, but unless that person feels truly connected to those people, none of it matters. They are just vapid social endeavors.
The Bible talks a lot about Christian fellowship. The word fellowship is koinonia, which basically describes a relationship wherein one person has a joint-participation with another in something possessed in common by both. This suggests a deep and strong connection between two people based upon their mutual relationship to Christ. It is His Spirit that gives them unity and fellowship. This kind of relationship is beautiful, grounded, and not easily broken.
Earlier, we defined loneliness as a feeling of isolation, absence of identification, and a yearning for love. A relationship must meet all of these needs in order to be fulfilling. It doesn't matter how many relationships a person has, if they do not meet these basic needs, none of them will be fulfilling, and loneliness is the result. Deep and abiding loneliness comes from many years of searching for this kind of a relationship.
There are typically 2 ways to deal with loneliness: Pushing others away, or constantly surrounding yourself with people. In the former case, the person becomes solitary. In the latter case, he is afraid to be alone.