Loneliness means “that your heart is untethered to the hearts of others.” (Davis, page 9) Admissions have doubled in a short time: 40 percent of adults in two recent surveys said they were lonely, up from 20 percent in the 1980s. (slate.com) In her book Connected author Erin Davis describes loneliness as “an illusion of connectedness to the people around you accompanied by a gnawing fear that somehow you’re alone in the world.” (page 3) I know what it’s like to have close friends, a busy schedule, a loving marriage — and to still feel lonely.
The world is experiencing pandemic loneliness — so possibly, you’re feeling it, too? Medical science is proving that loneliness isn’t just a feeling, but a “disease.” It attacks us at a cellular level and contributes to many health problems. My last post highlighted our widespread Smart Phone ADDICTION. Through a series of posts, I’m sharing what I’m learning about how technology, convenience and reluctance all contribute to our loneliness. Hopefully, you’ll want to read Erin Davis’s book yourself. All quotes from Connected will be noted with a page number.
My own lonely confession: My calendar is over loaded, even prompting me to write about being crazy busy and my need for planned neglect. Life is mostly good. Still, in the midst of it all, I feel a foreign and inexplicable loneliness.
Moving back to Tallahassee when I did was a gift; it provided an obvious then and now contrast of life. Daily circumstances have changed for many of us empty nesting mid-lifers. While I still love, enjoy and appreciate my friends, I don’t see a lot of them.
Many of my closest relationships began in the embrace of “motherhood convenience.” We were moms in the same places who welcomed connection and built friendships. Then I moved away.
I left Tallahassee a single mom with a bustling household. For the first time, I kept up with friends mostly via the internet. I returned a newlywed empty-nester, working full time — a very different world — except for the continuation of all these eRelationships.
I’ve reconnected with many people. When I bump into others, we are both genuinely glad. We’re still friends; it’s just that with convenience removed from relationships, we don’t get together as often. I’ve heard the same complaint from many friends (in various cities) who share this lonely feeling. We are baffled as to what’s going on and how to get off today’s hamster wheel.
I’m excited to share Davis’s book. It has given me insights into possible causes of this odd isolation and a hope for change. “God has hardwired us for deep and meaningful relationships, and true connection with others is possible and game changing.” (page 4) Don’t you want the life of vibrant connections He planned for you? I do.
How does a technology addiction fit in? I’m not demonizing technology — as usual, it’s user error that causes problems. Too much of my daily ‘relating’ amounts to what is on Facebook or in texts. That’s so unfulfilling, when I have experienced how energizing it is to really BE with the people on my screen. Electronics do not tether hearts very well. We might “feel the love,” but are we really satisfied? Known?
Knowing: Knowing is so well illustrated in the Biblical account of Jonathan and David — best friends. Jonathan gave up his birthright to the kingship and defied his father to save his friend. Why? 1 Samuel 18:1 says “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” This interweaving of souls required deep commitment on the parts of both men.
Think also of our more casual relationships. Of course, we reach various depths of knowing in a broad range of encounters. But as believers, we’re called to be part of a body — parts who need one another. Intertwined. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12)
“Knowing says, ‘I see who you are and choose to weave my life into yours.‘” (page 30) A choice to briefly interact with a real person feels much better than the emotional void of swiping a card at the ATM. And does a hug compare at all to anything offered electronically? Face to face is not as fast, but is there always a reason to hurry, or is it a bad habit we’ve acquired? A wise friend told me, “I’d rather talk to three live people than text and facebook with 100.” Yet, he is in the minority, and frequently ribbed for not answering his beeps and tones.
What else? Is today’s loneliness pandemic attributable only to the abuse of technology, or is there something I can do to enrich my relationships, once I limit my screen time?
It seems there’s more to our isolation. Connecting was easy when it happened naturally at my “job” as mom. Maybe that convenience and the recent years of so much tidy, distant, automated relating have made me lazy. Do I google new recipes when I’m feeling adventurous, or call a friend who’s a good cook — and chat a while afterwards? A live phone call trumps a text for connecting every time. Why don’t we want to be “bothered” anymore with talking?
Real relationship like Jonathan and David’s is self-sacrificing: inconvenient, messy, time-consuming and deliberate. Some questions to ask ourselves —
- Am I still willing to live that way, or has the fast paced, automated world sucked me in and spit me out a lemming? Proverbs 18:1 warns, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
- Do I enjoy the perfection of presenting my “highlights film” to the world (pride?) from the privacy of my keyboard?
- Or am I willing to be vulnerable, real and honest — face-to-face?
- Do I want to let others into my reality, and to enter the messiness of their lives, as we share each other’s loads? (Galatians 6:2)
- Or am I tending my own life, and want to just enjoy it, hunker down, or hide? Am I reluctant to BE with people?
It’s time to understand why I’ve begun pulling back from real daily life connecting. It’s always hard, but exciting to invite God to search me, to know me — to listen and repent of my sins, and then chase after what He desires for me. Something’s amiss, because God has abundant Life in mind (John 10:10), not the dangers of isolation and loneliness.
Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. ” It’s the verse God keeps putting in front of me.
We are invited to interact with our God, Abba, who is relational at His core — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Protecting our daily quiet time and connection with Him is always step one. He is the only One who can love and know us perfectly, and He wants us to know Him.
The second step seems to be acknowledging my gratitude — for family and dear friends in Tallahassee and scattered about who know me and share their lives with me so well. I am eternally grateful to them and to God for them.
Prayer: Jesus, I will seek You and trust Your plan, as You show me the world’s ways that lead to loneliness. Please teach me to connect with others, to be authentic with them and to share our lives in a way that glorifies You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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