Behavioral scientist Susan Mettes has written an interesting book titled, The Loneliness Epidemic. The subtitle is, Why So Many of Us Feel Alone.
Much of the data that is highlighted in the book comes from new research by the Barna Group.
“In [this] academic research, loneliness is the distress someone feels when their social connections don’t meet their need for emotional intimacy,” Mettes explains. “It’s lack, it’s disappointment, it’s something we are conscious of, even when we don’t call it loneliness. Loneliness is a thirst that drives us to seek companionship—or, perhaps better, fellowship. Without fellowship, we go on needing others and seeking relief for that need.”
From the work I do with men, I believe (my opinion) that men struggle with loneliness much more than women do.
Joe Ehrmann, in his book Season of Life, laments that fact that men are always comparing and competing, wondering how they measure up to other men. It leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Ehrmann mentions a study he had read that revealed a sad fact: most men over the age of thirty-five have no authentic friends—someone close to them whom they can be vulnerable with and share their innermost thoughts and feelings.
When two men meet for the first time and have a conversation over lunch, they generally will talk about sports, business, or possibly politics. But they typically will not open up and be transparent. However, if you have two women who meet for lunch for the first time, you can often count on the fact that they will be much more vulnerable with each other.
I also might add that the problem of loneliness may be far worse than the research reveals. Publicly accepting and admitting our loneliness can be quite embarrassing. Admitting we are lonely causes us to think we have failed in the most important arena of life: belonging, love and attachment.
I think this is a clear indicator that God made us relational beings. If we were not designed to live in relationships with others, there would be no problem with loneliness.
Author Donald Miller says:
“… the words alone, lonely and loneliness are 3 of the most powerful words in the English language. These words say we are human; they are like the words hunger and thirst. But they are not words about the body, but the soul.”
He goes on to say, “I think it is interesting that God designed people to need other people. Our souls need to interact with other people to be healthy.”
Phillip Zimbardo is a psychologist that teaches at Stanford and has made this observation; “There is nothing more detrimental to a person’s life than isolation. There is no more destructive influence on physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and us from them.”
The Bible is quite clear, we need each other. In Romans 12:5, in the Amplified version we read that “we are mutually dependent on one another.” Isn’t it interesting that God designed us to need each other, to be mutually dependent on one another. I guess this explains why we become so dysfunctional when we live in isolation.
It strikes me that the loneliest moment in life must be when we are facing death and must step into eternity all alone. There is no one to go with us, it is such a solitary experience.
The Christian life is a relationship with Christ. It is knowing Him and walking through life with Him. Most significantly, he promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. The good news of the gospel is that in Christ, you are never alone.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.