Choose Not to Be Lonely
One More Year of Choices
By Barbara Dahlgren
We were created to be relational. That’s why solitary confinement in prison is one of the worst punishments. Even when we are antisocial, we will subconsciously respond to others with our “mirror neurons.” This is why smiles, frowns, and yawns are contagious. So our brain may be social, even when we aren’t.
Yet, as relational as we long to be, loneliness prevails. We have more methods of instant communication available than ever before, such as computers, e-mail, the Internet, cell phones, and text messaging – which might be part of the problem. Social media users spend less time socializing one-on-one with others. Conversations might take place on phones, but reading another’s body language through airwaves is impossible. And text messaging has created an abbreviated language lacking in written and verbal nuances once needed to interact with others. Exactly how many BFFs can one have in a lifetime?
To complicate matters, some people often impose loneliness on themselves. They can be their own worst enemies. They retreat from contact with others and have unrealistic expectations. They suffer from distorted logic, thinking that since they are alone, no one wants to be with them. When they, actually, might reject others before even giving them a chance.
Connecting with others takes a concerted effort on our part. Those who are friendly and attract others can’t understand how difficult it can be for some to connect with people. The lonely person feels vulnerable and fears rejection. However, it’s worth taking a risk because loneliness can lead to depression manifesting itself under the mask of withdrawal, anxiety, lack of motivation, and sadness.
So the benefits of connecting with others far outweigh our inner feelings. We may need to enlarge our sphere of contacts. And we definitely will need to focus a little more on others and little less on ourselves. If we can’t learn to do that, we will always be lonely – even in a crowd.
Consider this… God is more about community than individualism. He models this in the Trinitarian relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace-filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship.
Whether we like it or not, people are interconnected. We are interconnected with God and with each other. If we don’t want to be lonely, we need to look for ways to connect with others. Not doing so is definitely detrimental to our well-being.
Suggestions for practicing this choice…
Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. Feelings can be deceiving.
Join something! Take a class! Go to the fitness club! Adopt a pet! Become a “big brother or sister.” Send a care package to a soldier.
Volunteer. Help in a homeless shelter. Visit those in a veteran’s facility, hospital or nursing home. Find people who are worse off than you and give, give, give. Believe it or not, there are people lonelier than you.
If you are invited to somebody’s home, why not accept instead of making an excuse not to go? You could always go for a while and leave early. Bring a bottle of wine or sparkling cider. Sometimes it’s easier to refuse an invitation than stepping out of our comfort zone.
Take a big leap of faith and invite others who are lonely to your home for a potluck.