We have social media, the ability to connect at the tap of a touch screen, go to universities, office buildings, sports stadiums, bars or churches that are jammed with other humans. But loneliness still creeps in. Why?
Perhaps we have become too over-reliant on quick, status updates as forms of real relationships. Or we are too involved in our own stuff that we can't see past our noses to what's happening in other people's lives. Or maybe we're just too stubborn to recognise the issue at hand. Who knows?
But, the very thing we don't want to admit might actually be our saving grace. Just like with addiction recovery, the first step out of this emotional hole is admitting that it's there. So there mustn't be shame in admitting that we're lonely.
Craving meaningful connections.
The Sunday Gathering – which has been dubbed church for atheists was started by a pair of friends in England. It's come to Australia, Canada and parts of South America as well. In an article, co-founder Pippa Evans said,"You can spend all day in London not talking to anyone. I think people really want somewhere they can go and meet other people, which doesn't involve drinking and which you don't have to pay to get into." (www.news.com.au)
The non-traditional church goers are admitting it. Isn't that what we're all craving: meaningful connections?
Lonely but not alone.
I spent many non-studying hours at university watching "Sex and the City". And I've recently been re-watching Season 4 on DVD. Amid the one-night-stands, dating and blunt talk, the main character, Carrie, has some profound social observations and personal revelations.
In one episode she quips that she doesn't need a date with a man, because she's dating New York City. Carrie goes on to explain that she's never really alone because the city has so much to offer.
I can relate with Carrie. Some of my favourite ways to refresh and relax are doing that very thing – being in the city, all by myself. And while I could go the mind-trap of being lonely, I choose to include God in my wanderings. But a few hours into the quiet, I'm ready for human interaction.
God knows that too. As my girlfriend put it to me via iMessage, "God says aloneness is no bueno." She's right. It's there in the first book of the Bible. In Genesis 2 verse 18 God says it's not good for a person (in the Scriptural case, a man) to be alone.
Get over yourself.
It's usually our choice to get connected or remain isolated. In the last month I've met several women – mostly thirty-something like myself - who for one reason or another are making this decision. On one hand, they feel as though they aren't able to make genuine connections in their various social settings. Yet, at the same time they (or I should say "we", myself included) are sometimes unsure of how to take that step to make honest friendships.
I'd argue that after step one – admitting we have a loneliness issue – the second step is indeed to do something about it. In my own life I've suffered the self-fulfilling prophecy of loneliness. I find myself pulling away, uncertain of who to befriend or how to connect. In the end, I just feed the feeling.
By protecting our hearts from getting hurt by other people, we're also protecting our hearts from experiencing the joy of meaningful relationships.
So what's the "do" remedy? I think it's a bold, yet obvious move - reach out. Start conversations with people with whom we wouldn't normally consider befriending. Then make the step to share phone numbers, and make plans. Set them. Go beyond just talking about hanging out or catching up for coffee. Do it.
It would be a shame to have a contact list full of 'friends' without ever actually making any. So get over yourself and get out there. (I say to myself too).
Lisa Goetze lives in a house with five other Youth With A Mission workers in Brisbane, grew up in a city of seven million in Canada and is learning how to be a woman with a massive heart for other people.
Lisa Goetze's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/lisa-goetze.html