loneliness…

my tuesday night women’s Bible study has planned to get together this summer once a month for book club. our first book club was last night and we read Max Lucado’s Traveling Light. well… i only made it through half of it because i was busy studying for my final on monday and didn’t get around to finishing it up on tuesday.

one of the chapters, as you would probably presume, dealt with loneliness. we all got chatting about how lonely our culture is. a few of the women work in the mental health profession and they shared stories of individuals with whom they have interacted who do the craziest things for attention (like attempting suicide at prom). this, of course, led to further discussion about loneliness and of course, how lonely everyone is these days despite so many technologies available to keep everyone in touch.

i got to thinking and i really wonder if today’s culture is really all that unique in its loneliness or does it simply seem so unique because we have the technology to easily maintain contact with people? back before phones and facebook people walked and wrote letters. did that long distance communication really ease loneliness? were people really all that much closer in those times? obviously i don’t KNOW the answer, but i would venture to guess that we tend to romanticize simpler times, thinking that people had closer and more authentic friendships.

i don’t think that people 100 or even 1000 years ago are really all that different than we are. i don’t think that they necessarily cultivated closer ties with people around them. i don’t know that every person had a network of people around them. the only thing that i can really think is that today we have phones, email, facebook, twitter and a number of other social networking sites that allow us to share our thoughts with people and to “stay in contact”. however, i think that as humans, we are inherently so selfish that a major part of our motivation to updates is to get people to pay attention to us.

i’m guilty of that. not every time, but sometimes.

there are times when i change my status or update things just to see if i get a response. just to see if i’m the center of the world. most of the time, i’m not. those times when i’m looking for it and don’t get that can be pretty hurtful too. of course, i have to stop and think, how often am i commenting on OTHER people. how often do I cultivate the relationship from my side? do i just expect people to pay attention to me without having to put in some kind of work on my side?

i think that those who are lonely don’t think about the other side enough – how well they are attempting to cultivate relationships. i’m NOT blaming the victim, don’t hear me saying that, but i think that everyone could benefit from taking the focus off themselves and thinking about what other people are saying and working toward the relationships from their end. and sometimes friendships end. sometimes people just fall off the map. sometimes people ask how you’re doing, you reply and then you don’t hear anything from them for a month. the best i can do is to not let that kind of stuff get to me (which is really, really hard) and to not take it as a personal slight – like they’re ignoring me. i’m simply not the center of their worlds and lives.

it’s so counter intuitive to live like that, though. to put others first. to think about other people’s thoughts and feelings before you start to give importance to your own. it’s probably one of the hardest things for me as a Christian to do. i like being the center of attention, i like it when people pay attention to me, i like it when i feel important. i don’t like it when i’m being ignored and when i feel unimportant to people. i don’t like it when i have to set self aside for the benefit of someone else or for the benefit of a relationship. it’s not my favorite thing ever, no. however, i know that if i ever want to really make a difference in the lives of others, i have to do that. it’s part of the direction in life i’ve chosen. i’ve chosen to live like this, i’ve chosen the path of denying self to follow Christ. i have to admit, sometimes it seems like a nonsensical decision. sometimes it seems like what i need to do is impossibly hard and sometimes i wonder if this REALLY is what i want.

and then i realize how ridiculous i’m being.

of COURSE this is the life i want. it’s life that makes sense to me and honestly, really fills me as a person. knowing that i’m living differently than the majority of this world, knowing that i serve a big God, knowing that this is the worst i’ll ever have it? yes please. sign me up every day. i want to be a better person, i want people to see me and get to know me and reevaluate their relationship with God. i want people to know that just because you choose Christ doesn’t mean that you choose a life that sucks and where you can’t have anything and it’s no fun. because that’s not true.

and hey, it even helps with the loneliness thing because this lifestyle emphasizes taking your attention off yourself in order to build real and authentic relationships. is that what i want? oh yes. more than words can say.

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4 thoughts on “loneliness…

  1. jeneypeney says:

    I think a lot of the problem of loneliness stems from the higher education culture.

    As years have progressed if has become more commonplace to GO to college and GO AWAY to college – I lost contact with almost all of my high school friends from that and it is damn hard to stay in touch with the friends I made at college,too. Regardless of the technology, people get soaked up into their lives and non-existent proximity to friends definitely hinders communication.

    That being said, I completely agree with you on having both sides giving an effort to cultivate a friendship!

  2. lurking dad says:

    Having grown up in the pre-(video games, cell phones, laptops, e-mail…) days, a lot got said and discussed in long distance relationships via US Mail. Phone calls didn’t happen that often. Most of the time you didn’t call just to touch base. You also knew, really knew, a lot of the people who lived around you. I remember, as a kid, knowing who lived in just about every house in a two block radius. Did I know them well enough to “drop in and visit”? No. But can you name everyone who lives in your building? Do you know them by sight? As a kid, we went to visit my dad’s mom, I think about once a month or so. That was a two hour drive one way. We would also spend time out at the farm of my uncle there.

    Our world has now become smaller and more spread out. We keep our distance from those living close to us, and travel long distances to get groceries, go out to eat, see a movie (or do we mostly do Netflix now?), etc.

    Have I got it figured out? Not at all. It is real easy to have lots of contact but still be lonely. It all lives in relationships. They need to be cultivated, from both ends, all the time. 🙂

  3. allison says:

    i’m gonna confess right now… i didn’t read your whole post. but i do have a thought. think about how many relationships you are trying to keep going… i’d say there are at least 20 people that i’d like to talk to on a regular basis. most of they i don’t have a very close relationship with. i’d say i have 5 close relationships. before there were phones and facebook and even cars you had no choice but to get close to those who were near you. think of how close you would get to those people near you without the distraction of phones and facebook. that’s were i think some of the problem comes in… that we try to hang on to sooooooo many and don’t let ourselves get truly close to others, to build those relationships that can keep you from being lonely.

  4. Kim says:

    I agree–I don’t think we are any lonelier than we were 100 or 1000 years ago. But, I also think that we labor under this false impression that technology will bring us together and that hasn’t entirely panned out. Sure it can make travel quicker and communication faster, but it doesn’t really bring us together any more than we were before as a society. But there are enclaves of our society that have been brought together by things like the internet.

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