Loneliness

Carla: As you know, I am one of the 21 presenters at Christianity 21 (Oct 9-11), an unprecedented event that promises to be a cultural shake-up. There are some astonishing presenters involved and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. PLUS: Caryn and I are hosting a Mommy Revolution hang out time so that all of you can meet each other, have some wine, and do some serious fomenting.

After much debate, I have decided to use my time to talk about loneliness. I have come to believe it is perhaps the greatest bane of human existence. But I have also come to believe that it is one of many human ailments for which the church is uniquely positioned to be the ultimate cure.

And yet I don’t think we’ve found the right approach to loneliness. For all our small groups and book clubs and community meals, too many people leave churches feeling just as isolated and disconnected as they were when they arrived.

Loneliness seems to hit nearly everyone–men, women, parents, non-parents, single people, married people, people with lots of friends and people with no friends at all. It cuts across every demographic category–age, race, social status, income, gender, educational achievement, etc. And it sucks. It is the worst pain I know and the pain least likely to be eased by words or even the company of other people. It’s deep and awful and self-perpetuating. But I think there is something we can do about it.

I’m not going to tell you what that is of course–I have to save something for the conference, which is why you should come. But I do need your help as I put this presentation together. I would love to hear from you about what loneliness feels like to you–just a few words or phrases or even images. I want to know what has kept you stuck in that place of loneliness or how you’ve found your way through it. What has helped and what has just made it worse.

Caryn: I’m glad we’re back on the loneliness kick. Because last week I had a tiny epiphany. As you all probably do NOT know, I’m on the board of my kids’ school. (I am now the boss of the man who was my high school principal. God is good.)

Anyway, as a member, last week I was tasked to call 17 of the new families. One of the members had rightly worried that parents of new students might feel as lost and disconnected as new students often felt. She thought just as we encourage veteran students to embrace these new kids (not literally, because then we’d have to expel them probably), we ought to embrace the parents (again, you catch my drift).

To be honest, this sounded like a nightmare to me. Aside from going door-to-door, the idea of “cold calling” literally leaves me cold. It takes every last ounce of “why SURE I can be outgoing!’ energy I have to do this. So I prayed hard for the words and time and plain ability to pick up the phone. And then I did.

The first day I only got through three people because each conversation lasted a long-ish time. But they were great conversations. They moved quickly from a place of “do you have any questions” to talking about where they were from, to me telling funny stories about my days at this school and decoding some jargon, to sharing about our kids, to hearing what they worried about.

After those first three phone calls, I sat down on my front steps and thought about loneliness. Specifically, that same thing you said a bunch of paragraphs up. There are a lot of lonely people in this world. And I think my conversations with these strangers attested to that. They were lonely. I was lonely. And a simple conversation with a stranger can do wonders to alliviate that. (This is starting to sound like how all affairs start! Hence the danger of loneliness!)

So I guess, my little idea for how the church ought to respond to loneliness is basic: pick up the phone. Start a conversation. Start chatting at a bus stop (though not if I’m trying to tweet at that moment). Say hey to the guy next to you on the train. Head over to chat with your neighbor when she’s out picking tomatoes. Ask people how they’re doing. Ask if they have any questions.

My fear of the cold call and the  door to door and (frankly) everything I just listed above is that I think everyone has full lives and is so bursting with friends that I’m just an intrusion. That I’d be the pathetic one trying to make friends (which I am). But my little phone-call epiphany sort of proved me wrong. I called barely-connected-to-me strangers close to dinner time and asked how they were. An hour-and-a-half later, I had three more people in this world I can’t wait to chat with again.

Carla: I think you’ve hit on something so crucial to the way we approach loneliness. I get freaked out about making new friends because I worry I have nothing to say. But I’m starting to think that all it takes is a few ordinary questions to get a conversation–“What’s the dumbest thing that happened to you today?” “What book do you wish you had time to read?” “What song do you secretly love?”–and a friendship rolling.

So please share your stories with us. What has helped? What has hurt? What do you wish was different?

On a completely unrelated note, I have declared this academic year “The Year I Get My Crap Together” and so in the last 24 hours I have made 4 dentist appointments, 2 vet appointments, an orthodontist appointment, and set up a lunch meeting. I was also two days early for a “Meet the Teachers” thing at preschool and I think that should count for something. Feel free to stand in awe of me.

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32 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Danielle P. on September 2, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I’ve been a loyal reader of the Revolution for a while now, and as I’m sure so many can relate to, I simply haven’t had the time to respond. But I do get to think about the issues you ladies discuss here (most often when I drive and the little people fall asleep) and in thinking over those private moments in the car where my thoughts get to roll around, I just want to throw this out there before I say anything else: this little meeting place on the good old internet has been one of the most powerful anti-loneliness cures to date. Honesty is, for my money, the number one thing that has abated some (if not all) of my loneliness. And that’s not just true for motherhood, but for being a Christian too. Saying the sometimes downright UGLY stuff is so powerful!

    The other thing I wanted to get out there is the kind of loneliness that I run into, because I think that is different for each person too. I think back to when I had my first kid, and I don’t think I felt that lonely at all; maybe PHYSICALLY alone (which can certainly be isolating and hard) just from not getting out enough. But I didn’t feel alone in my head until later. Now – three kids three and under later – I most often feel alone with some of the less-than-flattering reactions I’ve had, that I NEVER expected, and that continue to surprise me as they come about. And I don’t hear anyone else say this stuff, that sometimes they wish they never had kids, that sometimes they wish they’d only had the first one ’cause families of three seem so frickin’ relaxed and adorable and CLEAN, that sometimes a good-looking man smiling at you and thinking you’re amazing makes you feel things that you haven’t felt with your husband in EONS and that makes you feel resentful of the whole damn thing, too, and that SOMETIMES you just feel like a teenager again and wonder how in the world a family is supposed to run with YOU as the captain of the ship… and that makes me feel alone. Because I used to like who I was a pretty decent amount before all of this, and having kids (especially two and three) has brought out a side in me that makes me mourn the loss of my former, more likable self. A side that sees Jon and Kate, and can relate to BOTH of them, that hears stories of husbands and wives who do terrible things to each other when their kids are sleeping, and of secret lives of private self-destructiveness, and unfortunately… I can understand them, at least to an extent that makes me feel like a hypocrite for judging them. Because I feel like I do all of that bad stuff, or feel the desire to at least, in my head.

    Luckily, it’s not always like that. Having my playgroup ladies (who, inevitably, will read this) gives me an outlet for saying a milder version of all of this, and lets me hear some of their crazy, but some of their good too. And it’s so ENCOURAGING. So there’s my recipe: honesty, plus genuine encouragement. I don’t think everyone is lucky enough to have people around them that they can get this from, and that’s what I think we can all do: bring people into that. Offer them that understanding and frankness, and maybe some people will look at you like you’re crazy (Lord, how many times has that happened to me?) but maybe some others will look at you and say, “You know what? That is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.”

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  2. I think part of the reason we are particularly lonely in our culture, is that people seem to be too busy to hang out with their friends. I’ve come up against this quite a lot, when trying to form new friendships, or even trying to get together with people I’ve known for many years. Many friendships I’ve ended up just giving up on, because the other person was always too busy. And often the busyness is mysterious .. it’s not really apparent why people are so busy. Perhaps they are saying “yes” to too many commitments? Watching too much TV? Spending too much time on Facebook (okay, guilty!)?

    I don’t think friendship is a priority in our society. Maybe part of the revolution is to turn off the computer and the TV, say “no” to some things, and go spend some more time with our friends! Maybe we need to slow down, get off the hamster wheel of fast-paced 20th century life and revel in our friendships. Friendships of real depth take a lot of time and we have to be willing to commit to that.

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  3. ditto what danielle said. every. single. word.

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  4. Posted by Robyn on September 2, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I’ve been thinking/struggling specifically with loneliness within the church. We’ve been attending a church for 2 years now, and we are even “members”. We know all of 6 people. Due to my extreme morning sickness, we didn’t attend church for 6 weeks this summer. No one noticed. No one called. No one cared.

    We joined a “life group.” (Those are the 6 people we know, though 2 of them have decided to leave this church in search of another.) I attended some events for “moms with young kids” with my high hopes of making friends, which ended up totally trashed. The women who knew each other sat around talking about their lives while I desperately tried to fit in and break into the conversation. No one asked me about myself or my daughter. No one even introduced herself to me! We went to an after-church hamburger cookout one Sunday and deliberately chose to sit with people we didn’t know. (Not that difficult when you only know 6 people.) Guess what? They talked amongst themselves while we tried to randomly pipe up and get a word in here or there. They weren’t interested in getting to know us. During the meet-and-greet 30 seconds portion of the service every Sunday, someone asks us if we are new. Nope. Been here two years, but you just never noticed us. Thanks.

    I’ve tried to reach out. No one is reaching back.

    Is this really all I can expect of church? Sit in a building for an hour a week, passively listen to a sermon that I probably don’t even agree with, go home? No connections, no relationships? I don’t even know whether I should go to church anymore. Does “the church” bear any responsibility for at least providing some points of entry, some opportunities, to reach out to “newcomers”? Sometimes it seems easier to make friends with non-Christians than with Christians.

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    • Hi Robyn, My daughter and I have live in a rural area of MD going on 12 years now and have attended different churches. My daughter and I are finding it so very difficult to make friends we are still considered outsiders even in the churches because we are not from here. I can relate to your post so much…many times just standing or sitting with people and hoping to somehow break into a conversation only to be ignored or given one of those phoney smiles. I find the churches the worst and we have been at the same one now for over a year and with such a small group as ours is you would they would make an effort to reach out more but when we do try to do invites we get turned down. We both go to church lonely and leave lonely and I find that unacceptable especially in the church. I often say I just don’t want to go but we ache for real christian fellowship as I know you do. My daughter is 30 years old and has had two brain surgeries due to epilepsy and all she has ever wanted is friendship and it’s hard watching her and hearing her stories about how she tries to reach out to other women in the church and is politely shunned as if she is not popular enough to be around. She loves the Lord so much and can not understand how the church doesn’t see this as sin and deal with it. She can not have children and they believe in having many and homeschooling so it has become one big clique of homeschool moms and those of us who don’t are out of the clique.
      when i’ve spoken out on this I am told that it’s just not true and it takes a long time to build relationships in the church! My daughter was told she was just so “needy”. She commented yes I am, I need friends and fellowship and isn’t that what we are suppose to be about. I have even taken a homeless woman to church and was so hurt when no one came over to reach out to her a new person and show compassion..I had to take her to someone before we left just to introduce her to someone! You should feel loved at church and cared about…but I know without a doubt they could care less if I ever showed up again as long as they have their clique there. So sad the pastor can’t begin on time because he has to take so long to get them quiet and seated before he can even begin.(.we are a new small and very informal church). I found this site because I am alone at home(hubby is out playing cards) and wanted to see if anyone else felt the way we do. I have two friends who are beautiful christians but they have church at home as a couple…they became tired of the church games. I want to know if anyone really knows the love Jesus spoke of..He weeps at what we call the church. The only time I’m spoken to most of the time is when I put myself in front of someone and say Good Morning and then they feel obligated to respond..what a shame my bed feels better to me on Sunday mornings! If I decide to avoid churches and stay at home I’m called rebellious and out of fellowship (What Fellowship!) We can’t force it to happen can we? Nice to meet you Robyn. Kristen and I both know how you feel ….believe me! Sometimes we think , hey “Maybe we really are invisible to others and just don’t know it”! Have a hug!

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  5. Posted by April G. on September 3, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Robyn, I am sorry. I wish I could give you a hug.

    Danielle, I love you more every day and am very honored to be your friend. You have certainly helped with my lonely and crazy moments. Thank you.

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  6. Posted by Danielle P. on September 3, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Oh, April. You, too, girl – I mean it. 🙂

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  7. I also find it difficult in today’s highly transient society. At our church, the Rector talks a lot about the “sending road” which he means in the sense of our mission to be out in the world reaching out to people. My husband and I have noticed a pattern where if a family becomes involved in a church small group with us (or are just close friends with us) they seem to have an increased chance of moving somewhere out of state. We prefer to talk about it as our “gift of sending” rather than contemplate that we are possibly driving away friends 🙂

    Marci. Carla. Care to reassure me 🙂

    Anyway, it’s rough, cause finding and forging close friendships is really tough to begin with in our society. I agree with Marci about people seeming to be too busy. And then I have trouble doing what Caryn is suggesting — and that is just calling up someone that I don’t know very well to ask them to get together spontaneously. I find that really difficult because I’ve gotten mixed results with it. There’s only a few people that I feel comfortable doing that with. I do feel like it’s putting myself out there. How many times do you try to connect with people before you figure that the “too busy” means “not interested.” Often it’s just easier to sit at home rather than risking being hurt. Or I just wait for Marci to come into town and organize something for me! I’m pretty extroverted, so I need it, but I’m also fairly shy (extroverted doesn’t necessarily equal outgoing, though people who know me on a surface level probably think I’m outgoing!) and probably too sensitive, so it’s just really hard to keep working at it.

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  8. Kim: I have trouble with what Caryn is suggesting too. Since my epiphany I have done no reaching out. I find it terrifying. (So, can we finally get together for lunch? It may have to be at a McDonald’s playland since I’ve got my 2-year-old around and am using up my babysitting budget with speaking gigs…… But message me if you wanna. This invitation is open to anyone else who lives nearby. And is not a psycho or something.)

    Danielle: Awesome comment. Thanks for sharing–knowing that your playgroup moms would read it. Even better. Hope that opens some doors!

    Robyn: My heart breaks for you in that church. WHAT is going on there? “No one is reaching back” is perhaps the most haunting, horrible indictment of a church I’ve read in a long time. I’d maybe pass your comment on to your pastor. If he or she cares…..

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  9. Posted by Barb on September 3, 2009 at 9:18 am

    You can be busy and still be lonely. You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. You can have lots of friends and still be lonely for a best friend. Loneliness is not having someone with whom you can talk heart to heart. It is wishing you had someone you are free to call about the latest ball game. It’s looking for someone who shares interests, listens compassionately and non-judgementally to your hurts and fears, It’s having no one to have fun with. It’s not having you can go to the movies with, or plan a holiday picnic, or a last minute outing when it’s a beautiful day. It’s going to church and then having no one to do brunch with after church. Loneliness is reading a book and having no one to talk to about the book. Loneliness is an empty house.

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  10. Posted by Carla on September 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Kim–you and the Mr. are one of the main reasons we hung around for so long! And no, not him more than you.

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  11. i am not subscribed to the comments here, so when i popped back over today to read what everyone is saying, i was struck by something robyn said. i have felt this way so many times in church, which is probably the main reason we don’t go right now. i have a less difficult time accepting the rejection from those outside church than i do from people who claim to follow Christ.

    i am wondering, though, specifically to robyn: is this the same robyn who commented on may 18 on the livin’ la vida amiga post? if so, you say something entirely different there, which has me confused since we kind of went back & forth on that post…

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    • Posted by Robyn on September 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm

      Yeah, yeah. I even thought about that previous post before I posted. And tried to figure out why I feel so differently now than I did then. It’s weird, isn’t it?

      I don’t know. Because, at the same time I feel this complete lack of relationships and intimacy at church, I also don’t feel really “empty.” I mean, I don’t need many friends to be content. Lately, though, this pregnancy has made me more lonely because I am having such a hard time with it. Also, my “love tank” is WAY more empty now than it was back then because I do not have the energy to even relate to my husband, let alone anyone else. And I thought someone would care about that. But no one seems to. I guess maybe I thought I had more friends than I really did, and now I am realizing that I don’t. And the one friend that I KNOW cares lives in another state. (But hopefully not for long!) Also, back then, I was still reaching out, and putting energy into that, thinking that I had “potential friends,” which I had factored into my not needing to search out even more friends. But that potential didn’t pan out.

      I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but I guess I am just in a different place now. It’s crazy/scary how fast that can happen. And it’s good for me to see the other side of this coin.

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    • Posted by Robyn on September 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

      Oh, also note that I said this:

      “That said, there are times when I feel my soul longing for a deeper connection with the “Christian Community.” I feel like my relationships at church are tenuous as best. If I stopped attending, would anyone care? Would anyone ask why? We are so wrapped up in our individual lives, and church attendance is just another activity we do. It’s not grounded in the type of community I read about in the New Testament. That makes me sad. With absolutely no ideas regarding how to do it differently.”

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    • Posted by Robyn on September 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm

      AND…

      I really wish I could meet you in person. I have a feeling we would actually get along great. One reason is that you seem so honest and forthright (like sort of calling me on my inconsistency). If you are ever in So. Cal., let me know. And if I am ever in your neck of the woods, I will for sure want to head out to coffee or something with you! 😉

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      • ok, robyn, consider me officially humbled. at first, all i could think was “omg, we had this back & forth, and i felt judged back on that other post, even though we worked through it, and now she’s saying kind of the same things i was saying back then!”

        and then you had to go and be all nice at the end and heap coals on my head. not that you knew you were doing that. and not that i had to admit i was feeling all angsty about it. but, as you have already perceived about me, i’m pretty honest, even when it’s to my detriment. 🙂

        so yes, coffee would be great! someday…so cal is pretty darn far away from tampa…

  12. Kim, you are one of those rare people who is always available to hang out. That’s why you’re such a good friend 🙂 Kim & Carla: I still miss those days of the St. Barnabas church group.

    I’ve had trouble connecting with people at church, too. After church I try to talk to the other moms and be friendly, but end up being ignored, for the most part. It’s gotten bad enough that I don’t even want to go anymore *sigh* We didn’t attend at all over the summer — mostly because we were out of town nearly every weekend — but like Robin above, no one ever called of seemed to care. And it’s really quite a small church. Weird.

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  13. Posted by Robyn on September 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Also, it would help if all the events for women weren’t during the day, if I could bring my 3 year old with me, and if I would get that subtle judgement about being a working mom. Just sayin’.

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  14. Posted by Robyn on September 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I mean WOULDN’T get that judgement…

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  15. Posted by Melissa on September 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I am 47, single (always), and a new parent of two years (I have a bouncing 13-year-old girl). I really struggled with loneliness most of my life and especially near the end of my 30’s when my biological clock was ticking so loudly it was deafening.

    For me, it has always been more about how I feel myself, my fears about being alone, and my woundedness. Afraid I was unlovable, that no one cared about me, that no one could possibly love me, my life was purposeless, or that I was just different from everyone else. When I was sick at home in bed, I used to have morbid thoughts about dying in bed and nobody noticing for weeks.

    I’ve come to recognize that if I face my fears and look at the core issues, I am less likely to feel lonely. When I need people, it’s up to me to reach out and find someone to talk to, listen to, and engage. When I can’t connect with others, I can bathe myself in the fact that I am never alone. God is always present.

    On another note, we were all created for relationship. I think this instinctive longing is often confused with feeling lonely. We need each other just as much as we need food, drink, and sleep. We cannot survive without relationship and when we are hungry for relationship that lonely feeling pops up to drive us to others. This has become more real to me in the last four years as I’ve studied attachment and seen the devastating impact of neglect and abuse on children. Relationship is absolutely necessary to our survival.

    By the way, I love being alone. And for some unknown reason, being single gets easier and more enjoyable to me as I age. So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I started the adoption process in my 40s : – )

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  16. Posted by Melissa on September 3, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Carla, in regard to Christianity 21, I just wanted to let you know that Alise Barrymore spoke and preached at our national conference last year and everyone loved her. So I can say that I now two amazing women who get 21 minutes at the event.

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  17. one thing i will say about the loneliness (to echo what melissa said) is that when we start feeling this way, we really do need to email or call a friend and try to get together. i find that even if i’m hanging out with a girlfriend i am not that close to, somehow the warm body makes me feel better. having a glass of wine takes the edge off with an especially obnoxious friend. but hey–at least i’m out of the house, having wine, not changing diapers and doing dishes!

    i think for me i have LOADS of expectations about friendship. i am trying to think outside the box lately. like, there are some friends who will always be there for me, no matter what, and then there are people in my life who can give me an outlet for girl talk but not much deeper. you know? just silliness, bad jokes, wine, girly movies, food, wine, oh, and did i mention wine?

    maybe unloading our expectations about relationships will help in combating the loneliness. especially related to church. like, what expectations do we have for the church when it comes to relationships? i for one expect the people who are part of a church i visit to be friendly, inviting, open. but mostly they aren’t. i don’t know if it’s because they have baggage so they think “oh i can’t be honest or open with this person or she will see who i really am.” i think that is mostly it, in my opinion.

    so i have let that fester within my soul, feeling rejected, lonely, out of place. but i’m starting to try to lower my expectations and “take what i can get” right now. i know, that’s so terrible. but maybe me doing this will lead to a more open mind for me, less expectations, and that will be a good thing.

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  18. I read Jennifer Silvera’s book this summer, and I was struck by the part where she talks about a woman reaching out to her. The theme of her book is grief, not necessarily loneliness, but what sticks in my head about her story is that she says that this stranger was “willing to be uncomfortable” and reach out to her. Uncomfortable. That’s me, approaching people I don’t know. I’ve always assumed that for some people it’s just easy, …and maybe it is. But I wonder if she isn’t right about this. Those who make an impact, reaching out to connect with others, really are just willing to be uncomfortable.

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    • This idea is good. A willingness to be uncomfortable would solve many of the worlds problems, actually. It would right a whole lot of the wrongs. Wanna mull this a bit…..

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    • I think this is a big reason why our churches often don’t feel friendly or connected. It’s because most people are unwilling to be uncomfortable. And I’m not talking about the new people coming in. I’m talking about the people who have been at the church for awhile and have their own comfort zone of who they “know” well enough to feel comfortable approaching. I think often we look around and assume that others are more comfortable in their groups than they actually are. I’m sure other people at my church would say that I’m connected there and comfortable. And generally that’s true. I’m about as “comfortable” as I’m probably capable of being. It’s a large-ish church 600-800 on a Sunday morning. Which means that I know a bunch of people in a fairly surface-ish way. I can hold 5-10 minute conversations with a decent smattering of people. But it’s always a bit overwhelming and I’d pretty much rather just stay in my comfort zone and only approach the 2 or 3 families that I’ve been slowly developing deeper relationships with. When I go to the mom’s group (about 30 moms attend), I hate getting there early and having to sit at a table by myself and then wait to see who ends up sitting with me. I’d rather time it so that I get there when about 1/2 the people are there, so that I can make sure I get at a table that has 2 or 3 women that I feel comfortable with. Which is fairly sad, cause then I’m really not reaching out to those new moms who just had the babies and are coming into the group looking for connection. I’m not even reaching out to the moms who have been coming for years longer than me but I just haven’t really met yet for whatever set of circumstances. They MIGHT be women that I would really connect with and get along great with, but I’m uncomfortable saying hi to them and I’d bet if I’m willing to be honest with myself that they are probably just as uncomfortable and most likely not because they just think I’m weird or boring, just someone they don’t really know.

      I honestly think in many instances that people look much more connected than they actually feel (aren’t we good at that!). They’ve established a few connections that they are comfortable with and those are the people that they seek out because it is comfortable. They don’t talk to “new” people because that’s scary. Maybe in order to have a welcoming church, you have to foster an atmosphere where people are committed to deliberately moving outside their comfort zone on a regular basis to try and meet people they haven’t met before. An atmosphere where people are continually sacrificing in order to connect. An atmosphere where people always remember that the other person is probably as scared to reach out as they are. I have no idea if it would work or how to do it — just literally typing as it pops into my head. And now I’m just challenging and convicting my own self and honestly I’m not sure if I can do it.

      Robyn — I just want to make sure that you realize I’m not saying that you aren’t putting yourself out there enough, cause I’m totally NOT saying that. It sounds like at this point the church that you are going to has an atmosphere that is 180 degrees away from asking it’s members to be vulnerable with each other in their reaching out.

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  19. I think it maybe goes both ways, though. I know that often when I’ve felt very lonely, I still reply, when asked how I am, that I’m “fine, thanks. Busy! How are you?” We’re very good at being “fine” aren’t we?

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  20. Posted by Janice on September 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I want to offer a bit of a different perspective.

    I can relate to much of what has been shared already, I have had many of the same experiences and feelings. Making friends has always been hard for me and even though I’m kind of a “lone ranger” mom, I have also had times of loneliness and disappointment with the churches I’ve gone to.

    Recently a friend of ours had an opportunity to prevent a woman from committing suicide – he was right behind her car on a bridge when she stopped, got out of her car and climbed over the railing, intending to jump. The article in the paper described her saying “I’m lonely – I just want to die” Well, that just made me think of this discussion and the importance of reaching out to people – we never know who might be at the point of desperation.

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  21. Posted by Stephanie on September 8, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I am late to this discussion but I am amazed by everyone’s insights. I want to echo that loneliness is really an epidemic in Western culture. We check our email obsessively, we pour over our Facebook pages, we tweet, we check our cell phones for missed calls or text messages – we’re trying desperately to relate and connect with one another.

    I don’t really have a solution, but I am struck by how pervasive loneliness is here. Truly I long for the days when families (and I mean extended families) all lived together or right next to one another. When people came out of their homes to share with each other instead of caving indoors.

    In the book, God Grew Tired of Us, by John Bul Dau, he was struck by how strange it was to him that families were cut off from each other and living separately. He said, “By separating the generations of a family, the circle of life gets broken” (page 280). He also was surprised by how Americans spend so much time isolated from one another.

    We all want to seem self-sufficient and independent. It is the “American way.” But by doing so, and insisting we are doing just fine on our own, we are deluding ourselves and setting a poor example for our children.

    I wish I knew what to do…

    Reply

  22. First of all, I stand in awe of Carla…..hope the year is ‘all that’ and more for you. Secondly, I think this topic is huge for women. We are on the brink of fall/winter when we will be shut up in our houses and struggle even more with lonleliness. I know being alone isn’t the same as loneliness, but it can contribute. Most of us are lonely in a crowd, don’t really know who we’d call and invite over if we wanted to do that, have more acquaintances than friends, and keep ourselves in a lonely tower because we’re afraid to tell anyone who we really are. In the end it will take RISK on our part to step out and open up and invite…….will we do it?

    Reply

  23. Posted by Laura S. on September 12, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    After reading this long list of fascinating comments I am fascinated by the topic and it’s importance. I was struck by many of your thoughts and can honestly say that I relate to, and/or respect everything written here. Who knew that loneliness could be so vast and colorful?

    Bonnie wrote about the Silvera book – I haven’t read it but have always been captivated and deeply saddened by their story (her husband was a police officer and died on a Northern Mpls highway a few years ago…amazing family and so sad.) She wrote about the idea of being willing to be uncomfortable.. I think I’ve been the person who has been willing to be uncomfortable; I think it’s always worth it to make a new friend: a close friend or a casual one. However, (a GREAT BIG HOWEVER) is that now that I’m a mother, and a mother of two little ones…. I am so fried, so tired, so spaced out, reflective, overwhelmed and, when we actually get to church, am slightly in shock to be out – and able to focus on a sermon, a song, a face, whatever… that I am just not myself…. and often times void of the energy to be “uncomfortable” and reach out to the new folks… it’s sad. Sad for them, sad for me… but it’s real. I may appear aloof, probably so. But I am not. I am what I just said: fried, tired, spaced out, reflective and overwhelmed. Even if approached I may not have the energy to respond very well.

    That’s all for now….

    I am grieving my old self and the enjoyment I used to find in “being uncomfortable.” But thanks to the comments here today I think I just might dig a little deeper, spring forth and try a bit harder. Actually, I have made new friends, neighbor friends on the sidewalk this past month… and I think I’m gong to reach out in propose something crazy to them…. This post has given me a nudge to trust my gut. We shall see! I think I need them…and it’s seeming like they may need me as well – it just takes someone to make an uncomfortable proposal :O)

    Thanks for all the thoughts, ladies. Loneliness isn’t something I’ve consciously struggled with- but maybe I actually do struggle!?! Now that I see it’s many colors. Either way I am grieved by the pain of those in the church who aren’t getting what they seek…. it could so easily be me.

    Reply

  24. I relate completely to the fear that other people will regard me as an intrusion into their busy lives. This is why I have a distinct dislike of making phone calls. I feel like I’m bothering people. I’m a bit of an introvert, so I’ve never been sure if I didn’t want to talk to people, or if I was afraid they didn’t want to talk to me.

    Reply

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