Reading time: 3 minutes
What is the opposite of loneliness? It’s not necessarily being around other people or enjoying others’ company. It’s being content with who you are. It’s hard to be lonely when you are at peace with yourself.
Loneliness can be debilitating and result from the self-fulfilling prophecy of believing “I do not belong.” If left unchecked, it can develop into a disease. A disease becomes progressively worse until a cure is found. People who lack sufficient relationships will become emotionally unstable over time. This is how loneliness can become a deception–a belief that one is stuck in a trap and no escape is possible.
The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.Mark Twain
While overcoming loneliness does involve other people, it’s not physical proximity to others that irradicates the disease. It’s the genuine, life-giving connection with God, others, and self in healthy balance.
Loneliness is Optional
Loneliness is real, but it’s not intractable. You can be alone and not lonely. Being comfortable with yourself means you have taken the antidote of internalized love. A Christian is never truly alone. Even though God is not usually physically felt, He is always present. You can be not alone but still feel alone if you become numb to others. You can have food but still feel hungry if you have problems digesting.
You can be not alone and not lonely. This is possible in a couple of ways. One, if you have internalized enough love, you have it stored up. You can survive in nutrient-deficient environments because you are healthy. Previous positive interactions keep you going even during a relational drought. Two, you could be with people that feed you relationally. When your genuine emotional needs are being met, it’s impossible to feel alone.
Loneliness is not Caused by People
You can be not alone and lonely. This demonstrates that other people do not automatically make loneliness go away. Healthy relationships makes a difference when they meet emotional needs. They are mean to be a conduit for emotional needs, not an end in themselves. Unhealthy (or unhelpful) relationships create emotional scars (or perpetuate neediness). Sometimes two needy people do more harm than good. Moderately needy people might bicker but still live to fight again another day. Desperately needy people can end up tearing each other apart.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.Galatians 5:14-15 ESV
If your relationship is a place of doing more harm than good, it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on the relationship. It just means you temporarily need help from outside the relationship. After you have internalized enough love, your relationship can thrive.
You can be alone and lonely. If you find yourself here, it’s time to put yourself in a (relatively healthy) community. There are no magic cures but neither is there a better alternative. Not everyone will be a good match for your needs but one good relationship is enough to move toward health. Even so, limiting yourself to one person will not be effective. No one person can give you everything you need.
God designed us to ultimately receive what we need from Him. But He frequently uses other people to communicate His love. If you are lonely (whether alone or not alone), your needs are not being met. It’s time to do something different until your needs are being met. Cry out to God. Tell Him what you need. Tell at least one other person what you need.