A Cure for Loneliness?
This is my first topic-request, so I hope it touches that specific reader and everyone who reads this.
Loneliness is an increasing epidemic in our 21st century world – and it stems from one simple problem: a separation from a deep and intimate communion with God, with fellow man and with one’s self.
From the beginning, Adam had everything – he had all the plants, animals, food, nature, and later was given Eve to be his companion, but above all, he had and enjoyed the presence of God. Adam was simply in perfect union with all of creation and the Creator. But when Adam chose something other than God (the fruit, ie sin), he destroyed not only his union with God, but his perfect union with his wife (ie humanity) and with the rest of creation.
Adam simply made a decision outside of God. And what did Adam do right after this act? He resorted to being alone or away from God – he hid from the presence of God. God cries out “Where are you?” and of course God knew where he was – but Adam began to hide from God and from himself (covering himself with leaves) and then blamed both God and his wife for his mistake (Gen 3:12).
Thus the cause of loneliness can be seen from the beginning. We are lonely because we separate or ‘hide’ from God, we cover our true selves (in all sorts of way from pretending to be someone else to living in sin, etc etc), and we don’t always have healthy relations with our fellow man.
One of the biggest issues in our society (I believe) is that it constantly promotes and boasts of individuality apart from the other – an individualistic and self-centred approach to living, so-called loving, and being (“be your best self” “if you want it done do it yourself” “it’s your success” etc etc). In this “me me me” ideology, we have cut off the fundamental aspect of our created nature – being connected with one another (creation, humanity, God) – to be more of the “self” and independent and self-willed. This is a flawed theology, for no being of any sort can be independent of another – for we all come from God and were made and are sourced from another human being. (And this revelation is clear when Adam saw Eve and said “this is now bone of my bones…” Gen 2:23). Adam identified his humanity in Eve (in the ‘other’); likewise we as human beings identify our being with one another; this is why God said “love your neighbour as yourself” – because your neighbour is yourself – he also shares in the same humanity.
Having lived in 3 different countries and travelled to many different parts of the world, I have been able to notice different cultural beliefs, ideologies, and practices. I have realised that the highest rate of suicide, depression, divorce rate, sexual immorality, debt, loneliness, obesity is in the USA (and I think statistically this is confirmed). This is not a point to demoralise America or Americans (as I do not renounce my birthplace of origin and upbringing) – but I say to bring an awareness that something is fundamentally wrong here – why does one of the “richest” and most powerful countries in the world suffer from the greatest human epidemics across the globe?
I think Mother Theresa sums it up quite well…on a visit to New York she said she worked with the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta but the real poverty was in the West:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
God and the pursuit of authentic, loving relationships (and to be loved) have been replaced by “me me me” ideology and the attempt to satisfy the self in ungodly and selfish means (wealth, social status, sex, alcohol, other addictions). My goal must thus be to thrive on Life itself – to be filled with the “One who fills all things” (prayer from the 3rd hour of the Book of Hours) and to build my peace and love with humanity and creation. It seems to me the norm has now become to be ‘lonely’ and ‘depressed’ or unforgiving and unsatisfied; there has to be a change, for God has and does not intend this for us (“I have come to give them life and they may have it abundantly” John 10:10, and “rejoice in the Lord”, Phil 4:4 and many others).
Forgiveness I believe is a fundamental key to the cure of loneliness. How? Because in being forgiving towards another I allow myself to empty myself of anger, pride, envy (things that are not innate to myself as a child of God)– and offer myself to love, compassion, and life; if I hold grudges or avoid certain people or refuse and simply (and ‘logically’) cannot forgive such and such a person for whatever they did – then I refuse to love myself. Yes, I refuse to love myself because I am called to love my neighbour as myself (and this of course includes not forgiving oneself and not forgiving God also). And if I cannot love my neighbour or myself, then I am limiting myself to the love of God in me – towards myself, to others, and to God. I am simply not living the Gospel (for the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbour – there were no conditions attached).
If I can’t have a healthy relationship with my fellow man, then how can we get it right with God, who can truly cure my loneliness? (indeed John was right when he said “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how canhe love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20) And no wonder the whole world seems to be in chaos because I can’t get it right with God or with man or even myself; these 3 must work together –as the Holy Trinity work together in perfect unity and love, the Trinity shows us how to live and love and have holy relationships.
I also cannot fill my loneliness in seeking any relationship (friends, dating, co-workers etc), thinking that it will fill my void; for I am not complete or filled by another person or myself (sorry Jerry McGuire) – for it is God who completes and perfects me (1 Peter 5:10). Only God, authentic relationships with the other and one’s self can do this. My relationship with myself and with the other must be dependent and identified on God. Once these 3 are in communion of love, then one will see the epidemic of loneliness disintegrate.
So to briefly conclude, we have to re-analyse what relationship we have of our selves (how do I view myself, am I unforgiving towards my past etc), with people (from your local shopkeeper to your mother, friend, boss, etc) and of course with God.
(I have much more to say (especially on the isolation that social media creates) – but I will save it for another blog on “authentic human relationships” as many people have informed me my blogs are too long to read 🙂