I believe we don’t think through the issue of walking through life alone very much. We may be too busy to have friendships or feel we are ‘self-made people’, not needing anyone else. Many develop a tough exterior that says Don’t mess with me—I don’t need you. But it’s only a cover-up. We need others all through life. We have a fundamental need for others. That’s the way God made us.
We may say it’s our temperament that gets in the way: “I’m too shy and introverted and not cut out to mix with others”. I’ve heard that comment many times. Or we don’t want to go out in fear of meeting new people—that’s just the way I am. So we convince ourselves that others just won’t understand or accept us. We decide we’re not very interesting, and stay alone and aloof.
But the truth is that others are often more accepting of us than we are of ourselves. We condemn ourselves and lose the true perspective of what is true and real. Hopefully, someone will come along and tell you, God loves you and can give you his grace and peace.
And then there’s fear. We’re afraid of sharing ourselves, based on past experiences where we may have been rejected, abandoned or even abused by others. We certainly don’t want that happening again. Many of us have been burned in the past with those negative feelings and the effects can linger many years after the offence, so much so that we vow it will never happen again. “I’m never getting near people again who may hurt me,” we say. What happens? We don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable or transparent, in case we’re seen as weak.
And then there’s another excuse: “I’m too busy for other people”. “There’s too much happening in my working life, maybe things will settle down soon.” But of course they never do.
We’ve already made up our mind this is the way it will be. Better to be alone than getting hurt. It’s easy to be distracted by our over-stimulated world, there’s so much happening. Constant information, entertainment, education opportunities.
We can always point to something we feel obligated to do every day if we want. And of course, we get tired, exhausted and find it hard to let go. When we’re too busy we wish we could slow down. But there’s too much going on in our minds, and we forfeit the opportunity for soul refreshment that God can give us through others people.
So what can we do? Charles Swindoll gives a very good answer in his book Day by Day. He maintains we should make a new priority to have authentic relationships with some people. Here’s what Swindoll says:
Nobody is a whole team—we need each other. You need someone and someone needs you. We are not isolated islands. To make this thing called life work, we’ve got to lean and support. Relate and respond. Give and take. Confess and forgive. Reach out and embrace. Since none of us is a whole, independent, self-sufficient, super capable, all-powerful hotshot, let’s stop acting like we are. Life’s lonely enough without our playing that silly role. The game’s over. Let’s link up.
Let me make a few practical steps for overcoming loneliness. Perhaps you’ve heard these suggestions from well-meaning friends: “Why not join a club?” or “You should do some travelling.” They aren’t bad ideas but they’re not solutions to the problem of loneliness either.
Reflect On Behaviours
There are probably things you need to do to break free from thinking, emotions and behaviours that may be at the root of your loneliness:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify actions you can take to overcome loneliness.
- Admit the problem. Only after you acknowledge that you are lonely can you take the steps necessary to escape from your isolation
- Consider the causes. Evaluate your life honestly. What issues apply to you?
- Accept what cannot be changed. God can use transitions in our lives to open doors to new experiences, but we must be willing to let go of the past and move on.
- Alter what can be changed. Many of the causes of loneliness can be overcome.
Do you fear rejection because you feel inadequate?
Do you stay in your home watching television when you could be at a social function?
Has your best friend just moved away?
Take Measures to Confront The Problem of Loneliness
Regardless of the reason for your loneliness, you owe it to yourself to take measures that will meet the problem head-on:
- Work on developing self-esteem by stopping destructive self-talk, such as telling yourself that you are unlikeable.
- Practice looking at yourself from God’s perspective. Study the Scriptures and meditate on verses that depict God’s view of his children.
- Get out of the house at least once a week. Attend church activities; participate in community functions; take a class.
- Get involved in a cause. There are many groups looking for faithful volunteers who want to make a difference.
- Develop new habits that build up your inner self.
- Meditate on God’s Word for relaxation and to ease the effects of stress on your life.
- Establish a schedule for a day, weekend or a week. Loneliness often seems more intense when we have nothing to do.
- Start exercising regularly. Take walks around your neighbourhood, a local park or a shopping mall. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally.
Make the most out of your time alone.
Aloneness (as opposed to loneliness) can be a very positive experience. Aloneness, or solitude, gives us a chance to reflect on our lives, to meditate on God’s will for us and to find healing for the wounds inflicted by the world.
Many experts feel that we spend too little time alone and that we would all be better off by planning regular times of solitude in our lives.
Overcoming shyness and the fear of rejection is usually the biggest obstacle to initiating a friendship. Look for someone with whom you share a common interest. Take the initiative and give the person a call. Chances are that person may be looking for a friend as well.
Build a friendship slowly. Don’t overwhelm a new acquaintance with your problems and opinions. With time the openness to express feelings will develop. Give compliments and be thoughtful. Refrain from giving unsolicited advice and be a good listener.
Loneliness can be overcome. But it’s up to you to take the steps necessary to break free from its grip. Ask God, your Heavenly Father, for the courage to reach out to others and try new things. Trust him to give you what he wants you to have, an abundant life that includes intimate and faithful friends.
To relieve loneliness, God provides you with a plan to live for. The Psalmist expressed the confidence that comes from knowing God, “The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever.” (Psalm 138:8a)
God’s love is most fully expressed in Jesus Christ. When you welcome Christ into your life as Saviour and your Lord, you begin to know God personally and discover his plan for you. Your priorities change for the better.