Often people say they are lonely. The dictionary definition is “sad because one has no friends or company.” That is different from being alone. Alone means “having no one else present” or “being on one’s own.” Often when someone is feeling lonely, he/she has a deep need to have someone else help him/her feel whole. When two people like that meet, they might create a co-dependent relationship. They need to prop each other up. When they don’t find adequate strength from each other, they often turn to alcohol, drugs, or some other substance or behavior to make them feel better. Unfortunately, none of those alternate sources provide a permanent solution.
By contrast, being “alone” can illustrate strength, independence, wholeness. This person can stand on their own and are comfortable there. They are not anti-social nor narcissistic, rather their independence allows them to bring a whole person into a relationship. They do not rely on others for feelings of self-worth. When two individuals bring their strength into a relationship, their relationship becomes interdependent. They combine their attributes, their experiences, and their resilience to create an even stronger entity. That still takes work, patience, tolerance, understanding, compassion, and love, love, and more love. (Love is an action word, not a laissez-faire noun.)
It seems in today’s world, electronic communications like Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, texts, and email, weaken our ability to make genuine, healthy, person-to-person connections. It is much less risky to communicate electronically. When serving as a therapist in prison, we taught and talked a lot about how these men went to extremes to avoid the risk of rejection. “Anticipated rejection” was a huge factor for them never wanting to be hurt. We kept teaching them to approach potential relationships with an attitude of “anticipated acceptance.” Well, that wasn’t really realistic. It turns out that it is good to anticipate acceptance and to not be surprised if and when you are rejected.
If we want to get to know a group or to become a friend or to ask someone on a date or to participate in a wholesome recreational activity, hopefully, they will be interested and say “Yes!” Or they might say “no.” If they reject the offer, they might simply have a conflict, or not be interested in that type of activity, or they might not want to be with someone who is blonde, or brunette, or bald, or that thin or that fluffy or that tall or that short or wears glasses, etc. etc. Or maybe they said “no” because they are just having a bad day. If their answer is “No,” then we can choose to take it personally, be devastated, and never risk any future rejection by never asking again! Or we can accept the fact that they have moral agency and can say no. Then we move on. By the way, how much does that sound like being a missionary, inviting them to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and people say no.
It deserves repeating that life is about making connections and developing relationships. The two great commandments are: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
We can learn to be comfortable being alone. We can overcome feelings of loneliness. We can reach out to others and risk rejection. if we don’t risk rejection, when will we actually have the opportunity to make good, solid, interdependent, loving relationships in groups, with friends, with family, with that special someone? THE RISK IS WORTH THE REWARD !!!
Adjusting to Missionary Life suggests the following for reaching out to others:
- Get curious about others. Ask how they handle feeling lonely. Ask about their experiences and feelings so you’ll understand them better.
- Share more. We feel lonely when we don’t feel known and valued for who we really are.
- Listen more. Learn about others and value them for who they really are.
- Learn about the culture, history, and lifestyles of the people you serve. Keep a list of things you love and appreciate.
- Befriend your companion. Share ideas, serve each other, help each other, and forgive each other.
- Serve Church members, investigators, and others. Ask them questions about their lives, beliefs, and experiences until their behavior makes more sense to you.
- Pray for people. Include in your prayers the ones who reject you and hurt you (see 3 Nephi 12:44).
- Pray for the gift of charity. Do so “with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48). Ask for eyes to see others as God sees them.
May the Lord bless us to become whole and to create and maintain healthy relationships with the world and with those around us.
[NOTE: The Lord said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” That is a topic for another day. 🙂 ]
[Please note: The ideas contained in these articles are tools and suggestions for self-care, but they are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are feeling isolated or alone, helpless and hopeless, and experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]