Loneliness is one of the scourges of humanity. It seems to affect everyone regardless of age or ethnicity. Whether you’re a PhD or high school dropout, rich or poor, you’re equally vulnerable. What exactly is loneliness? It is a FEELING that intimacy, understanding, friendship, and acceptance are missing from one’s life. It is a FEELING of isolation or separation from others, a FEELING of being all alone. We need to realize that loneliness is nothing more than a feeling. After all, you are not your arms or legs, for they are just parts of your body. Similarly, you are not your feelings, which are just parts of your psyche.
Words are a lot like cars. Both are loaded with power. Cars are used to drive home. And words are used to drive home a point. Words and cars are very useful, but when used improperly, they can harm us. There are many poor drivers and poor thinkers because we learn about cars and words from unqualified instructors, such as our parents or friends. Now, let’s get to the point. Did you ever say any of the following to yourself or others? “I am lonely.” “I am sad.” “I am angry.” If you did, that is a misuse of language that leads to harmful effects.
Here is something to think about. The words we use imprison us or set us free. For example, if I were to say, “I AM lonely.” That is just like saying, “I AM white.” or “I AM a male.” You see, there’s nothing I can do about being white or a male. There is nothing I can do to change what I AM. So, when I say, “I AM lonely,” the implication is that I cannot change. In other words, I use words to imprison myself with false beliefs.
However, when I acknowledge that loneliness is a feeling by saying, “I FEEL lonely,” I open the door of my prison cell because feelings can and do change. Of course, as long as I continue to say, “I feel lonely. I feel lonely. I feel lonely,” nothing will change. For although I opened the door, I have chosen to remain in the cell. To completely set myself free I have to take that extra step by saying, “I feel lonely, SO I’M GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.”
Loneliness is much more than an inconvenience. Left unchecked, it can be a precursor to the solitary confinement of drug and other addictions. For the pain of loneliness may cause one to look for solace in drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling. There is also the danger of loneliness developing into anxiety and depression. One can become completely immobilized by feelings of self-pity and helplessness. Also, one may try to mask pain by oversleeping or putting in long hours at the office. Finally, the stress imposed by loneliness leads to a weakened immune system, heart disease, and other physical ailments. The moral is clear. If we’re suffering from loneliness, it’s time to decide to do something about it.
All right, I feel lonely and want to do something about it, so what must I do? Start by understanding a simple law of life which can help solve almost any problem. That law is: You have to give away what you wish to receive. Our actions are balls that bounce back to us. A corollary of that law is: Don’t give others what you don’t want to receive. If I punch someone, they will punch me back. If I hug someone, they will hug me back. It’s as simple as that. And that is the wisdom contained in the teaching, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Now, let’s see what happens when we apply the above principle. I feel lonely. As I sink into the sea of loneliness, I decide to reach out. For the pain I experience reminds me how others must feel. So, I resolve to help lessen the suffering of others by becoming a volunteer or a friend. Perhaps I visit seniors, the bedridden, or those in prison. Or, I may befriend a lonely classmate, coworker, or neighbor. As I do so, what do you suppose happens? Yes, others eagerly look forward to my visits. By becoming a friend, I have gained friends. By offering support, I have won support. By healing the loneliness of others, I have healed myself.
Another corollary of the law of life mentioned above is: You will receive the most when you give the most. So, give of yourself, expecting little in return. Think of others, not yourself. Don’t be needy because that will drain the energy of others and drive them away. Don’t be needy, be a friend. And build that friendship slowly. Don’t overwhelm others with your own problems. Learn to listen to others and they will listen to you. Learn to comfort others, and you will be comforted. Practice the principle of Tennessee Williams (1914 ~ 1983), who wrote, “When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”
How can you love someone you don’t know and don’t spend time with? What is true for others also applies to yourself. How can you love yourself, if you don’t spend time alone to get to know yourself. Being alone need not be the same as being lonely. For being alone is an opportunity for reflection, self-discovery, and growth. You will never be lonely if you like the person you are with. And no matter where you go, you will always be accompanied by yourself, so get to know and like that person.
The strongest trees are those that grow alone. The greatest dreams are those conceived alone. God can speak to you only when you are alone. Your purpose and life’s meaning will be revealed to you only when you are alone. Yes, solitude is not the hovel of a recluse, but the mansion of a master. It is a place of joy. Yet, don’t retreat to it to such an extent that you neglect others and deny yourself the blessings of friendship and companionship.
There’s nothing questionable about the power of questions. If you’re feeling lonely and don’t know why, that’s because you haven’t been asking questions. Take an inventory of your behavior. Are you a show-off? Domineering? Moody? A complainer? A gossiper? Unreliable? Nosy? Short-tempered? A taker that doesn’t know how to give? Do you build walls instead of bridges? Would you want to be friends with someone like you? Questions provoke thought and point to solutions. How can you take corrective action unless you ask yourself what you are doing wrong? If you are still mired in loneliness, is that because you’re waiting to be rescued? (Don’t hold your breath because help isn’t on the way.) If you need a hand, you’ll find it at the end of your own arm. There are lots you can do such as join a support group to master people skills. Learning about self-esteem, assertiveness, and how to overcome shyness and win friends can be a great deal of fun and put an end to your loneliness for good. Don’t deprive others of the blessing of knowing you; be a friend!
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