I sound "preachy" again. Sorry, folks.....can we call it passion?
Today as I begin this second post I am asking myself why have I had such empathy for the lonely and shut out? I'll spare you the details, but I had a most dysfunctional upbringing. I had so many moves from age 4 onward I lost count. I lived in small town SC, then to Indiana, then to Miami, then to North East Georgia. Some times these moves were in the middle of the school year. When I got tired of counting it was over 9 moves in 12 years.
I was an only child and I never recall being lonely in all of that moving around. As soon as the car stopped and the boxes came out of the rental van I must have sprung into action and plugged in my extroverted personality to win friends in a hurry. I loved reading and school. Winning the admiration of my teachers was a main focus for me. I excelled wherever I landed.
Somehow I believe I knew that if I were shy or in any way withdrawn I would have been a very lonely child and teen. Adult life threw some surprises that made withdrawing seem an option, but I never gave into those urges. The lonely need a hug, a smile, an affirmation and kindness that draws them to the "table" of fellowship.
I'm a scientist at heart; so my writings always have statistics and "proofs" of my philosophy. Bear with me. One in three Americans report being lonely. All types of people experience loneliness from time to time, but certain groups are especially vulnerable to chronic, heart-aching loneliness:
- older people
- widows and widowers, divorcees, and singles are especially vulnerable to loneliness
- many teenagers (1 out of 10) admit to struggling with loneliness
Loneliness Hurts: Our greatest need as people is to be in loving relationships. When we have prolonged loneliness we can develop other problems.
- Depression. People who are lonely are usually depressed. Their relational and social needs aren't being met. They miss having a partner to share life with and feel disconnected and bored. Even if you’re busy, competent, successful, or wealthy life lacks meaning if you’re not connected to people.
- Low Self-esteem. Commonly, those who are lonely don’t feel good about themselves. Self-esteem is not something we can manufacture ourselves or even maintain by ourselves. We all need to be esteemed and affirmed consistently by others for who we are inside, how we express ourselves, and what we have to offer. If you’re isolated from others then you’re unknown and unappreciated.
- Fear and Anxiety. We need each other in so many ways. One reason we need others is to talk through our feelings. Every day we all experience many things including some negative, painful things. We need to share these feelings and receive support. If we don’t regularly share our hearts with others then we’ll become anxious, worried, and agitated. And we may become fearful and increasingly mistrusting of others.
- Misperception and Projection. When we’re not receiving support from caring people our souls become a breeding ground for negativity. Lacking in feedback from others we’re prone to make all sorts of wrong and negative assumptions about other people and how they feel about us. And we may project our own issues onto them seeing judgment or rejection when it’s not out there, it’s actually coming from inside!
- Physical Problems. Dean Ornish, MD reported on research that showed that people who are lonely, depressed, and isolated are three to five times more likely to develop serious illness or to die prematurely.
I have a long list of Scriptures I've found that show how we are to love and care for one another because we are united in Christ, but I'm not going to post those now. I am hoping to reach out to anyone reading this that is lonely and to anyone who knows someone that is lonely. From my reading that should cover everyone reading this.
It's not supposed to be like this. Jesus Christ, who is love; who paid the greatest price for each of us to have abundant life; never meant for loneliness to be an epidemic in His Body: the Church.
My pastor is on a search for us to discover "What if?" each of us do what we can to address the pain and misery we see. I'm zoning in on loneliness. I'm praying that a preacher drops by this blog and is shaken up by the thought of one member crying themselves to sleep in pangs of loneliness. What if I give all that is within me for empathy and compassion to the lonely who are dying way before their time? What if I get a knitter to start a knitting circle, not for the charity hats and quilts you make; but for the relationships that are knitted together through Holy Spirit working through your group? What if a mechanic gets some men at the church together to check out the divorcees'-single parent moms' cars? the widows cars? Yeah, you'll be serving the Lord getting the maintenance done on the cars, but a lonely guy may get connected to a godly man that he's been needing for a long time.
Your turn: What if.......? What can blast loneliness out of your church and unite brothers and sisters in Christ in one mind and heart?