Thinking and talking about loneliness today. A few resulting thoughts:
1. Loneliness is highly stigmatized in our culture. It seems that feeling lonely and alone is a state that is not only undesirable but almost condemnable and certainly not one that normal, capable people *should* ever experience. To feel loneliness seems to be equated with having something wrong with you.
2. However, there’s an awful lot of loneliness going around for a culture that tries to tell its members that loneliness *should* not exist.
3. Being lonely seems most often equated with singleness or the desire for a romantic relationship. However, when we get right down to it, it seems that there are many many people who experience a lot of loneliness in the midst of romantic relationships — even, sometimes, within the bounds of full-functioning marriages, and sometimes even when both marriage partners are loyal, committed, and faithful to the relationship.
4. Therefore, romantic relationships must not be the answer to loneliness. This revelation can be taken as both good and bad news. For those of us who are single, we need to realize that chasing after romance and marriage won’t necessarily quench the need and desire we have for intimacy and belonging. While romantic relationships do inherently allow for a deeper level of intimacy and commitment between two individuals than we can really find in other types of interpersonal relationships, these relationships are still built by and between two fallible parties. Because of this, we can never be completely satisfied — our needs will never be entirely met — by a relationship with another human being.
5. So what do we chase after instead to fill the hole? Married, dating, single, widowed, “too young” or “too old” — we are all desperate for something. And we’re really good at being fixated with one supposed remedy that we are so sure will make everything right. And then when we achieve or gain that which we sought, don’t we usually wind up realizing that we’re no better off than we were before?
I know we’ve all heard it before. But listen again. “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Too true, Pascal. However, what that looks like — I still don’t know. If anyone out there has figured out exactly how this is supposed to be acted on, please enlighten me.