That is the question: can we be alone and not be lonely? Let’s look at the difference between the two. Being alone simply means we are by ourselves. It is a state of being. Loneliness is an emotion; the feeling of being abandoned, isolated and unvalued. Loneliness is a state of mind. We can feel lonely when we are alone, but the truth is we can also feel lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is tied to self worth. Mark Twain said, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with you self.” In study after study, self esteem emerges as the most significant predictor of loneness. We talked about this on earlier in the week; we as a society have let cultural standards determine how we value ourselves. Standards about how we should look, how we dress, what we should be doing. And when we don’t fit into the mold or get confirmation from those around us, we start to doubt our value.
Ben Martin, PsyD says: “Contrary to many beliefs, the elderly are not the most lonely among us. It is young people who are most lonely, and herein may lie some of the differences between being lonely and being alone. Many elderly people have developed traits or habits that help them be comfortable with themselves alone. They have found ways to keep busy mentally….. The young, however, are subject to a wide range of moods. They are bored and restless to the point of being unhappy for no clear reason. When they are not sought after and included in all activities of their peers, their self-esteem takes a hit. When they are lonely they blame themselves and resort to activities that exclude social contact, such as watching too much television.”
I remember one day when my daughter was about 10. Someone at school had said something really mean about how she looked. She was devastated. I gave her the typical mom response. “Well I think you are beautiful.” To which she said. “Of course you do, you have to… you’re my mom.” I wonder if that is how we feel about God’s approval sometimes. Of course, God loves us. God is God; God created us. What my daughter was really saying… and what we are saying when we minimize God’s love is “ I don’t believe you.” It is hard for a child to believe that her mother might actually believe she was (and is) beautiful, that as parents we see the true beauty of our children. In the same way it is sometimes to look at ourselves, our lives and believe that God truly sees the good and the beauty in us.
Over and over again in scripture, God reminds us that God sees and loves, “not as the world sees and loves”. The lens is different; it is bigger and deeper and clearer. There and only there, in the eyes and the arms of a loving God is where our value lies. Let that sink in on this Thursday in Lent.
This week in my research, I am collecting some tips or steps to master the art of being alone and not lonely. More tomorrow
Grace and Peace,