It has been said that people are actually lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. Many people who are lonely are actually around a lot of people. It is highly possible to be lonely in a crowd as well as lonely when actually alone.
Did you know that loneliness can actually be a blessing and not the curse most think it is? It is true. Loneliness can lead us to self-discovery, other people and, ultimately, to our creator.
Elisabeth Elliot was the first I know to call loneliness a gift. She taught that taking our loneliness and offering it to God as a sacrifice will bring contentment and joy. See, loneliness is actually a call to action we can heed by offering the loneliness to God and then saying, "What now God?"
I am reminded of a missionary who came off the foreign field at an old age, and instead of rocking away her days, she opened a home/farm for the homeless in her area. While using a threshing machine one day on her farm, her arm became caught and was severed from her body. Instead of crying, "Why God? I've served you all my life and you allowed this," she lifted up the remainder of her stub of an arm and cried, "What now God? What now that I've lost my arm?" Deciding to ask not "why" but "what" will bring us more satisfaction and guidance as well as more purpose than we ever dreamed. So, if you are lonely today, cry out, "What now God?"
If we have a feeling of emptiness, it is because we are not focused on a purpose for living. It isn't necessary to go on an endless search for meaning. The alternative to allowing loneliness to lead us to purpose is to leave loneliness untreated and it is then that we feel trapped, helpless and depressed. We must never let ourselves fall prey to the faulty thinking of woe is me, people are cruel, or so on and so forth. I am reminded of the little diddy of a children's song: "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm goin' go eat worms." Sounds silly, but how many times have we had that attitude when lonely?
Rich or poor, young or old, we are all given 1,440 minutes a day to use as we choose. Whether we utilize this time or squander it, it is a choice we all must make. So many think they are lonely because of other people. However, I'd like to take the quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" by Eleanor Roosevelt and change it a bit to say, "No one can make you feel lonely without your consent."
It is also true that if we are demanding, critical, needy, ungrateful, boastful, nosy, hurtful, spiteful, stingy and selfish, is it any wonder that we have no friends? Joseph Fort Newton said, "People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges."
Some seem to believe that poverty, lack of education, age or illness is the root of their loneliness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the happiest folks I have ever known had little as far as this world is concerned. But, they gave of what they had: their time, talents, worldly possessions and their lives. It is not our circumstances, but our attitude that decides our lives. With God as our help, we can change our attitude.
As soon as we change our attitude and decide to be givers instead of takers, we will be more at ease with ourselves. Others will become our focus instead of ourselves and happiness will no longer run from us. Remember: happiness runs from us when we chase it. But, when we seek to bring it to others, it finds us. This type of person attracts friends. You will never find yourself lonely if you are always looking out for the other person. However, if you are one who watches out for No. 1, I am afraid loneliness will chase you down where ever you go.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to end loneliness. Think of all the lonely people in hospitals who would be delighted to spend time with you. Besides offering the opportunity to make new friends and learn new things, volunteering makes you feel good about yourself. So, keep in mind the words of Tennessee Williams, "When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone." Besides volunteering, think about support groups, clubs, meetings, sports, church and other activities. It's hard to be lonely when you are investing your life into the lives of other people.
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and the grief counselor/bereavement coordinator and a chaplain for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 304-823-3925, ext. 136.)