Do you ever feel lonely?
Everyone wants to belong, to feel needed and accepted. We all need to be in the company of friends and family sometimes. But because of the number of growing problems afflicting youths today, and because of the increasing trend of both parents working outside the home, aloneness and isolation are real issues affecting many teenagers.
Sometimes we can feel lonely, even in the middle of a crowd of people. It should not be this way. We were created as social beings. One of our basic human needs is to be in the company of others. In fact, our great Creator God said of the first man, Adam, that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Have you ever wondered why is it not good to be alone?
The main reason is, although we all need times of privacy, too much time alone tends to cultivate inward, introverted thinking that focuses us too much on our self.
Realize this: Loneliness is a self -centered, self -focused, negative emotion. It is a feeling of sadness or discouragement for or about ourself. It is the opposite of joy and happiness!
The truth is, most of us don’t function all that well entirely alone, cut off from support and encouragement from others, for very long.
All of us, from time to time, can suffer from loneliness to one degree or another. For this reason we must understand what causes loneliness and what we can do actively to combat it.
Causes of Loneliness
Our world is becoming increasingly depersonalized. Many adults spend hours a day in front of a “personal” computer, or in an office cubicle, or commuting in traffic. Increasing numbers of adults—and young people—also spend hours a day entertaining themselves watching TV, or supposedly “communicating” with others via social media on their laptops, smartphones and mobie devices, while at the same time engaging in fewer and fewer activities that actually bring them together with others. Also, because of the spread of crime in the cities and suburbs, many people are becoming “prisoners” in their own homes, never building relationships with their neighbors or talking to strangers.
The cold and stifling influence of modern society takes its toll on each of us to one degree or another. Surely this is one contributing factor of loneliness.
Loneliness is sometimes fostered from childhood. From a young age, some people precondition themselves for loneliness by not constantly widening their circle of friends. Sticking with the same people all the time and never acquiring new friends stifles our personality development.
This tendency of hanging around with the same crowd all the time can continue into the teenage years and adulthood. Then, unfortunately, when circumstance separate us from our familiar circle or clique someday, we can find ourselves lonely and afraid to reach out to others. This usually happens when a teen who is not especially outgoing moves to a different town or graduates from high school and sees his former schoolmates go in different directions—off to college, to work, to join the military, etc.
Some teens are lonely because they fear others will discover their inadequacies and will not like them or accept them for who they are. Thus, because of their inferiority complexes, they tend to withdraw and stick to themselves.
Others have difficulty adequately expressing themselves in conversation. We may have a lot we’d like to say, but because we can’t communicate well or are afraid others might reject our opinions or ideas, we clam up and become social recluses. We fear failure. This also contributes to the negative feeling of loneliness.
There are many other causes of loneliness: Sometimes a change in our mental outlook or our emotions (perhaps a chemical imbalance or surge in hormones in our bloodstreams due to puberty, changes in diet, or simply maturing into our late teens or early adulthood) can make us feel strange or odd at times—giving us the feeling that we don’t fit in with anyone.
Dwelling too much on the pleasant memories of a familiar and comfortable past—friends, family and social life—can also contribute to loneliness. Thinking about the past is not bad in itself, but these thoughts should not consume so much of our time that we fail to grasp the reality of the present or embrace future challenges.
People battling sore trials such as the death of a loved one, chronic illness or long-term unemployment can often feel terribly alone in their struggles. Those who tend to feel most lonely may be cut off from the support a family usually provides. The Bible singles out “the fatherless and widows” as needing special attention—women and children without husbands and fathers, divorced and separated persons, and the elderly (James 1:27).
Loneliness can affect everyone, even teens in God’s Church, especially if we fail to stay in regular contact with God. The loneliest feeling we can experience is when we are cut off from God in this big, troublesome world. But the good new is that when we do get into contact with God, our symptoms of loneliness start to disappear!
Contact With God
Simply stated, we can’t, and won’t, overcome loneliness unless we are first close to God. As we draw closer to God, we will inevitably be drawing closer to others of like mind. On the other hand, if we drift away from God, we will begin to forsake others.
Without regular contact with God and Christ, sure, we may have some friends, but we won’t have true, edifying relationships with others. Why? Because we won’t know how to become a friendly, outgoing, morally upright person that others like to be around.
Strong contact with God helps make our contact with each other profitable and lasting. Contact with God—through heartfelt prayer and regular Bible study—can help develop a “magnetic” personality in us that attracts others. This is why Jesus Christ was able to become such a person of influence—even at the tender age of 12! (See Luke 2:42, 52).
In short, without contact with God, we won’t be able to effectively develop the confidence and other character traits that we ought to in order to maintain great relationships with others around us. These important attributes include love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Each of us must recognize our first line of defense against loneliness and every other negative emotion and circumstance is simply that personal, regular, effective contact with God.
In addition to drawing close to God, there are other solutions to combating loneliness. What follows are a number of tips.
One solution is to stay busy. As a student, diligently work at your studies; participate in appropriate school activities and get involved in extra-curricular projects that are fulfilling.
Throw yourself into your part-time job. Work hard for your employer. Don’t just mope around, doing as little work as you can to get by. Make your boss proud; create a good image and reputation for the company you work for. Seek to advance in your job, or start your own business. Be a go-getter!
Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” This is excellent advice for the lonely! Stay occupied, and soon you won’t have time to think about being alone or isolated anymore.
Don’t withdraw and “hibernate” in your home, moping around and feeling sorry for yourself. If you do this, you cannot expect the feeling of loneliness to go away. Get out and about. Take a walk. Go outside and enjoy some fresh air, and take in the sights and sounds of nature at a nearby park.
Begin to make new friends and strengthen old friendships. But beware of the mistake of making a few friends and then ceasing to widen your circle. Continue to make new friends regularly. (This doesn’t mean giving up old friends, but learning to include new people.)
All too often the lonely shirk effective contact with others. By not showing themselves friendly, they fail to encourage or develop friendships that may otherwise be available to them. Consider the fact that there are many others teens (and adults) who are lonely and that you can be a big help to them by being friendly and giving encouragement.
Think of others first. Gear your mind to this end and discipline yourself in giving your time and service to others.
When you feel especially lonely, strike up a conversation with someone as soon as possible. (If you can’t visit with someone in person or over the telephone, send a letter or e-mail.) Ask questions and be interested in finding out about their life.
Realize that you’re not the only lonely person in the world—other teens are in the same category and will benefit from your reaching out to them. Proverbs 27:27 states, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance [or outlook] of his friend.”
Even if you’re alone a lot of the time, when you do have the opportunity to be around other people, smile! And don’t just smile with your lips or put on a front of friendliness—smile from deep down inside.
Be approachable—make it easy for people to communicate with you by showing them attention and being responsive. Get others talking about subjects they’re familiar with or in which they are interested. You can help others while you are helping yourself get over feeling lonely.
Sincerely compliment people by noting their accomplishments and successes. Notice little things such as nice hair, a new outfit, an uplifting example. But be genuine—don’t flatter.
Be a good listener. Listen with attention, interest and respect. Don’t focus the conversation on yourself—try to get other people talking about themselves.
Look for ways to help others, and do something—anything—of benefit for them. If you are good at writing prose or poetry, write something for a friend. If you’re good at handicrafts, make a gift. If you use your talents to do something for someone else, you will both enjoy the gift much more. You will be learning to live God’s way of give.
Loneliness causes you to be a negative person. In order to fight it, you must replace it with the positive action of giving—and having outgoing concern for others.
Overcoming lonely feelings is part of you learning to take control of your life and your emotions. Conquering loneliness is part of developing an attractive personality, and becoming a leader instead of a follower.
A major part of the education taught at Imperial Academy and Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma, is personality development and building qualities of leadership. Developing the “whole person” is what we teach our headquarters students. This is what every young person should work toward—whether you hail from Kalamazoo or Timbuktu!
So take charge of your feelings, and actively work to combat loneliness. Remember, a real leader doesn’t have time to be lonely, because he is so involved and interested in others that he doesn’t have time to think about himself too much!