Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Loneliness is among the most universal of human experiences, but sometimes I wonder if those who say they are lonely are really understanding the term. Certainly each individual's point of view is to be respected, but sometimes I wonder if some individuals who claim to be dealing with loneliness really are not just suffering from boredom.

For me, loneliness is that horrible feeling of not being cared for. That's very distinct (and much worse) than simply being in your apartment alone without much to do. The fact of the matter is that, even when I am alone, I am confident in my knowledge that I am loved and cared for by my family, friends, and most importantly, God. It is this confidence that, to me, is the distinction between loneliness and the state of being alone.

Now, that kind of confidence has a rational basis. Love needs to be affirmed. To paraphrase Ursula Le Guin, love does not just sit there like a stone. It has to be made and re-made often, with actual actions to express it. Otherwise, it is simply an empty four-letter word.

Now, I think to be shown that you are loved is an important thing. However, I think different people can go for different amounts of time between such affirmations. Personally, I can go for rather long periods of time by myself without feeling particularly lonely. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the reasons for this are.

Perhaps it has to do with the quality of the interactions, few and far between as they are. For instance, I only get to talk to my brother once a week, sometimes even less than that. He is, after all, a very busy father, husband, and school principal. However, our brief conversations are enough to reassure me that he loves me (and I hope the same works in reverse).

Perhaps a part of the reason that I do well without much social interaction is because I see most types of interaction as fluff. I have little tolerance for small talk, and I can't say I am very drawn to parties. For my interactions, I prefer personal, deep, intelligent conversations with only a handful of people.

Maybe, then, this is why I am able to deal well with being alone. I don't give much of my time to trivial social interactions that don't do anything for me, and instead I work on my studies and my various academic and creative pursuits (one of which is this blog).

This is not to say that I never get lonely, but it's happening less and less. Everyone has different levels of what they need from others. Since, at this stage of my life, I seem to need relatively little, it gives me more opportunities to show other people they are cared for, so they don't experience loneliness themselves.


Anonymous said...

great post Jay! I especially like what you said about social interaction is often just fluff. I agree, I find it more draining to be around a group of people who only talk about the weather, the latest movie they saw, blah,blah,blah. I often find myself more lonely than if I were by myself if that makes sense. I am a SSA female in my 40's and I used to feel really lonely but over the years I have learned to enjoy my own company and now I actually enjoy my alone time even though I enjoy interacting with others too. I think those of with SSA, if we choose to be celibate, really have to learn how to deal with lonliness and I think you have done a great job explaining the difference between being alone versus lonely. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy reading your blog. You seem to have a lot of wisdom for someone as young as yourself, keep sharing your thoughts and ideas!!

naturgesetz said...

Jay — you make good points about the difference between being alone and being lonely. I think it is possible to be lonely even with other people around if one feels no connection to them, especially if one also desires a connection.

I don't know if parties and small talk satisfy anybody. The Myers-Briggs personality inventory has a continuum/distinction between extroverts and intraverts. The former are energized by being with groups of people, while the latter find it draining. So maybe extroverts get something from parties and small talk. But ultimately I think those things are shallow and we all can benefit from genuine intimacy. Perhaps a lack of intimacy can lead to loneliness. I don't know.

I've certainly grown used to being alone, and unfortunately to having little if any real intimacy in my celibate life. I think anonymous is right when she says an important part of our celibacy can be learning to be alone without being overwhelmed by loneliness. But if we have a good friend or friends with whom we can be really close, that is a blessing, I think, although sometimes it can also present challenges to our chastity of the heart.

Natural Substance said...

I kind of agree with you. There are times when I feel lonely because I'm in a place where no one really cares for me, but I always remember the friends and family I have waiting for me, and I feel better. I'm probably going to be lonely for the next four days, since I'll be living with my coworkers, lol. Anyway, I think all of us experience moments of loneliness. If we didn't, then we wouldn't appreciate God's love as much. We wouldn't understand at all why He created us. Good post, as usual.

DavidMichael said...

Wow, I might as well have written the same thing as your experience is just like mine. Liking to be alone and not liking it really makes a difference. Though I am social and enjoy being around close friends, I relish my alone time and haven't been to a big party (20 or more) in like, forever.

I think some guys like to "cave" and in many ways need alone time. I know I do and I wouldn't change that for anything. Too much alone time though and I can get anxious and find the "devil's playground" can look quite appealing, so I have to watch for that and then get out there and communicate with people, or pray or do something to change the focus. Do you ever find this also to be true for you?

Thanks for the great mirror Jay. It's always good to know other people think the same way about such a topic.

PS -- Your dual posts last night in the Homophobia comments section was very interesting and will take me a few days to respond, cuz, in a way, you kinda threw an unexpected curve ball and it's still rather stuck in my forehead between my metaphorical Spock ears. But I do want to comment back soon.

Thx again and have a great week.

Jay said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your compliments! For clarification, I don't mind small talk, but it's not what I rely on to help with loneliness, when I do feel it. I hope you're having a great day!

Naturgesetz: Myers-Briggs has always called me an introvert. Like I said, I do think different people have different needs. I just think there is quite a distinction between being around people and having intimate relationships with them. You can be lonely even if you're married with three kids. I pray that you continue to develop deep friendships with as many people as you need.

Natural Substance: Wait, what? Where are you going, girl? If you're heading out of town you'd better give me a call! Love ya!

David: Oh, I absolutely feel the same way. In many ways, figuring out how you deal with certain things is a bit like trial-and-error. I know I can spend quite a bit of time alone without feeling really sad, but I have also made sure to realize the warning signs of when being alone is starting to become loneliness, and then take steps to rectify it.

And in terms of our debate in the "Battling Homophobia" thread, I just want to make it clear that I don't mean any kind of offense. I can get very heated and energetic when debating with others, and sometimes I can go a bit overboard. I hope I didn't say anything that sounded like a personal attack.

After all, I really do enjoy that kind of thing. Exchanging ideas is one of the best uses for a blog. Take care of yourself, and have a great week!

MR said...

You said, "Since, at this stage of my life, I seem to need relatively little, it gives me more opportunities to show other people they are cared for, so they don't experience loneliness themselves."

Yes! That is one of the best ways I know to respond to loneliness. When I talk to needy people and I know they feel better, I feel the exact opposite of lonely. Also, needy people don't just talk about the weather, the content of conversation always turns to things that matter: life, death, purpose, meaning, and dealing with suffering.

RikFleming said...


I have had times when I am alone and yet do not FEEL lonely. I can wake up on a rainy Saturday (contrary to myth, it does rain here in California), drink some coffee, read a book, listen to music, go to the gym all by myself can be just fine.

I think my most intense times of loneliness usually follow a period of having just had a great time of fellowship with others. To spend a day with Christian families and friends and then come home to an empty house... it is like being high and then going through withdrawal. IN fact, that IS what it IS. I am emotionally HIGH having a great time and then when I get home the stark contrast and realization of what I do not have (a close family) but desperately WANT causes so much pain.

The temptation at times is to withdraw and avoid the HIGH times so that there is no LOW to follow. But, then I would be depriving myself and others of the joy of fellowship.

What I have been praying for and trying to become is content, satisfied, and comfortable in whatever state I am in and not allow emotional high and lows to overwhelm me. But it has to come from a heart of thankfulness to Christ for all things.

I have also found that just calling SOMEBODY can be a great help. Or, even just chatting on-line ;)

DavidMichael said...

No worries, we're good. :)

TRiG said...

It's partly a matter of looking after your own mental health, isn't it? Be aware of when you're going into a dark place, and do something about it, because the longer you put it off the harder it gets.

I'm sleeping better, feeling better, and am generally happier and more purposeful recently. Perhaps this is because I have some plans, however small they are.

Now let's find a way to translate the extra energy into action.


Natural Substance said...

Jay--I'm in the Suites! LOL. I moved three sidewalks away. ;-) I'll be "back" on Sunday afternoon. Which is a good song.

Brandon said...

I think you bring up a good point here, Jay. A person can certainly be alone without feeling lonely. And even a person surrounded by many can feel lonely. I've experienced both, actually, as I'd assume most have. I think knowing the distinctions here can help a person know what they need. Sometimes being around others isn't necessarily a cure for loneliness, and just because a person is alone, doesn't mean they're lonely. I've had my brother and others fault me before for keeping to myself, but a great deal of the time, I just like being by myself. I have plenty to do on my own like that. When I'm lonely, I go out or try do something with others. Anyway, I think you make a good point.


donsands said...

Boredom. I can sit and flip thru 68 Tv stations, and then do it again a little later.
Man! Is that boring or what?

Good post Jay. Keep shaing your wisdom. It's good stuff.

Being a sinner in a rotten world, with the devil as its god will cause to be bored at times, and lonely as well.

Jesus was lonely, and yet He always was very, very close to His Father.

If we pray a lot, and read God's Word a lot, then we too can be close to the Father, who loves us, and wants us to know His presence in our hearts, minds, and life.

But there will be seasons for throns as well.

But, Heaven is our truest home, if we are Christ's. And we shall never be bored once we get home, and never lonely. For righteousness and love will rule ever corner.