IS LONELINESS REALLY A CHOICE?
After writing about widows experiencing loneliness in my last post it occurred to me that loneliness is a universal emotion and I believe it’s more prevalent now that the whole world has been in lockdown for the past three months. Even after this, social distancing may be around for a long time. I know of friends and family who lived all by themselves throughout the lockdown and felt very lonely and I hope this will help somebody out there.
Loneliness is a very complex emotion and I want to tread carefully so I don’t trivialize your pain. You are not alone. According to Wikipedia “in the 21st century, loneliness has been widely reported as an increasingly worldwide problem. In 2017, loneliness was labeled a growing ‘epidemic’ by Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States”. We have a growing epidemic within a pandemic and my question is ; “is it a matter of choice?”
My friend who was brought up by her widowed mum from her early teens and I got to talk about this last week and agreed it was a matter of choice, an opinion that I am not sure you will all agree with. If you are lonely at the moment you don’t even want to read about it. You just want warm companionship, a soulmate, an agony aunt, someone you can share your joy, your victories, your pain with, someone who understands you and accepts you for who you. You may have lost the sense of felt choice but if you search below the surface you will find out that your isolation which resulted in loneliness may be as a result of your choices.
Examining the conversations I have heard with lonely people, I see that it’s not that there have never been any people in their lives that they could have had meaningful relationships with. They have rejected some as not being good enough, have mistrusted some who may have had good intentions. They have decided they couldn’t be bothered with some, they didn’t want their palaver, they were better than what the person was offering, they didn’t like the people, they didn’t want to get hurt again as they had been hurt too often, they didn’t want to give love another chance, the list is endless. They didn’t have time, they were too busy with their careers, they couldn’t be bothered, they said no when they should have said yes, the person was not the right person, the person was not genuine, they were not genuine. They had been abused, raped, duped of their money, gossiped about and decided never to trust a anyone again. This in itself is a choice.
God created us for community, for relationships. We are introduced to the most divine relationship in Genesis 1:26, – when we see the Godhead, three in One. Fast forward to John 14:10, ” Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. Before Jesus Christ started His ministry He called out a company of men to be with Him. It’s just the way we were designed to have deep and satisfying relationships. I believe that God in His infinite wisdom put people in our lives just for this purpose. Like C.S. Lewis put it, the people around us are not because of our good taste or judgment but were put in our lives by the ultimate Master of Ceremonies, God. We may choose to relate or delete. At the end of the day, you make the choice not to start the relationship in the first place or to end it. Isolation has great potential for loneliness.
The second choice to make is to accept the offering Jesus Christ is making of the best relationship anyone could ever have.In John 15:15, He calls us His friends. In John 16:27, He says the Father loves us because we love Him. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother Prov 18: 24 (b) ,and He did not leave us without comfort but baptizes us with the Comforter Himself. He grafted us into His Body , the Church where we are joint heirs with other believers and have a treasure of potential relationships. He says He will never leave us nor forsesake us and He will be with us until the uttermost end of the age. Jesus Christ, sees, He know us. You have the choice to accept and walk in His love.
Then there is the third choice to make. The choice to forget about yourself and your loneliness and commit to connecting with anyone God has placed in your circle. He who wants friend must be friendly himself, Prov 18:24 (a). Instead of waiting for love to find you in the person of your dreams you can decide to be a dream maker for someone else. Even on your sickbed you can make friends with other patients, with the medical personnel, you can visit old people’s homes ( after things have returned to normal or the new normal), you can adopt a child or the elderly, you can volunteer for telephone Counselling or join the community watch. The local church is full of possibilities, forget how many times you have been hurt, stay vulnerable, you can love again. Seek to understand before being understood .Everyone seems so busy but deep down we all want to connect. Jesus Christ will lead you because that’s what He is all about, He came to connect us with the Father and then with each other. ( Deut 6:5, 10:12, Matt 22:37-39).