People are lonely. A Barna report found 20% of people self identify as lonely. In another study, 11% felt lonely often.
Researchers indicate there is no objective criterion for measuring loneliness. Rather it is a subjective feeling regarding either (1) a lack in number of desirable relationships or (2) a lack in intimacy within those relationships. This means, for example, that three friendships of considerable depth could lead one person to feel lonely and another not. It’s subjective.
It’s also hard to discern if others are struggling because loneliness if felt within. Yet one study above says 37% of us senses a close friend or family member is very lonely.
There are consequences to loneliness. Feeling this way consistently can negatively affect physical and mental health. Examples listed were obesity, elevated blood pressure, disrupted sleep, and even premature death.
Isolation is not all bad news. I read in one place where it was advocated that we all become introverts. This author believed a certain amount of introspection was necessary for creativity, self-awareness, and rejuvenation.
I can agree with this author that the problem is not just “being alone.” So the solution is not just getting people around others.
My question to you is how do we, in the church, combat loneliness in a healthy manner?
Here are a few approaches being suggested beyond church walls:
- I came across this article titled, “Fighting loneliness with cuddle parties.” It’s a place intended for individuals who crave non-sexual human connection to “meet new people, to enjoy amazing conversations, to touch, to be touched, to have fun…all in a setting structured to be a safe place for exploration and enjoyment.” I don’t agree at all with this solution. But I think it reveals people’s desire for connection through touch.
- Others would advocate a more cognitive approach. Such people believe stopping destructive self talk is the primary step to combating loneliness.
- Pet lovers may already be yelling at the screen, “Buy a dog!” I think this could be a part of the solution but it’s unlikely the entire solution.
My question to you is how do we, in the church, combat loneliness in a healthy manner? How do we combat it in ourselves? How do we help others combat it in their own lives?
John Milton said, “Loneliness was the first thing God’s eye named ‘not good.’”
Mother Theresa once said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor.”
So how can we, the church, make a difference in this area? How can we combat loneliness together?
I’m looking for any concrete, practical ways to help the lonely in our midst. What do you think?