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Lessons I Learned on Loneliness

I always joke with my husband Dan that he’d be able to live like the Taliban- only in the sense that he’d be completely fine living in a cave underground somewhere for months, with just his IPhone and a jar of peanut butter. He lives completely fine with no human contact.

Not me. Probably not you either. Women can’t quite live in a “cave” as long as men.

My love language is definitely extended time. I could literally be with Dan 24/7. Before kids, if he said he had to run to the post office, I’d say “Wait! I’m coming with you!”

It’s not just Dan. I need women in my life too – big time . I feel energized and revitalized after a great conversation with another female. I feel fulfilled when I’m spending time with my girlfriends. Whether extrovert or introvert, women need each other.

But, as much as we don’t want to admit it, ladies…

We are lonely. 

I hear it over and over again from women – even the least likely ones:

“I want to connect more.” “I need closer female relationships.”  “I’m lonely.”

Do you think the ladies of Little House, or Little Women were lonely? At times, sure. But not our kind of lonely. Although they are fictitious, I believe they represented well the female bonds of the time. So, why are we just a little bit too lonely today? Maybe because of the heightened busyness and demands of modern day. We have bigger cities, but less human contact. Perhaps it’s our pride. We may not want to let others in; let them know that we need them. Definitely, it’s the social media scam; swindling us out of true and meaningful real relationships. It certainly bamboozles us into believing that everyone else is having more fun and creating the friendship moments we crave.

Loneliness is rampant today. When we are brave enough to admit we feel it too, we discover that we aren’t the only lonesome ones. And, maybe that’s what it takes to dissolve the loneliness – admitting it.

Read what my friend, Aurora recently admitted on her social media:

“Had the chance to connect with a lot of old friends this week. As I reflect on the conversations and some of the woman to woman, mamma to mamma, confiding and sharing moments, I am moved at how much we need each other. We don’t really know what’s going on in each other’s lives through social media. Sometime I feel alone and like I’m the only one going through the struggles I have, but then to have real contact with real friends and find they have and are going through similar things it blesses my heart to not be alone. To be able to stand shoulder to shoulder, to cry, to laugh, to pray and worship together makes us all stronger and there is light that shines through the darkness. I feel a lot less lonely today and I want to encourage you all to get off social media and to make contact, real human contact.”

Hmmm. Perhaps it wasn’t that those Little Women had sisters that helped them not to be lonely – perhaps it was that Joe, Meg, Beth and Amy weren’t too busy glued to their Facebook, Snap Chat and Instagram accounts to build real and meaningful relationships…because, in the words of my wise friend, Mindy – emojis can only do so much.

Girls, maybe you don’t have three blood sisters in your family to keep you company, but there are women out there who long to be your soul sister, and you just don’t know it. We were created for deep connection. 

Clearly, Facebook isn’t cutting it. We must get face to face.[bctt tweet=”Clearly, Facebook isn’t cutting it. We must get face to face” username=”DanielleMac80″]

Besides getting off of social media and into one another’s lives for real, here are some other ways we can combat loneliness…

10 Ways We Can Combat Loneliness:

BE the Host – This is tough. Not everyone has The Pioneer Woman’s baking skills, or a living space like Joanna Gainse. Good news is, we don’t need a bumble berry pie to hear what’s happening in our friend’s lives. Being the host doesn’t just mean you throw a pinterest perfect party for oohs and ahhs. It means you are the one rallying the troops – even if it’s just over to Tim Hortons for an Iced Cappuccino. The other hard part of taking on the role of “host” is hearing the word “no”. I’ll warn you that it could happen. Still, get out of your comfort zone and risk rejection. Stop waiting for the invite, and be the one who extends the invitation. The reward of the “yes” is far better than the hurt of the “no”.

Be Vulnerable – It is scary to be vulnerable. Trust me – I know. I type out all my vulnerabilities and post them to the World Wide Web. You know what I have found? Women connect with me on a greater level than if I had have saved face. I promise that when you share your desire to be closer, take the mask off and reveal the real you, you will be warmly received. I am willing to bet my typing fingers that the woman you share candidly with is feeling (or has felt) just the same as you.

Don’t Be too Busy – Just as difficult as throwing a party or being vulnerable is finding the time to do both. But, it is worth every second of time we carve out for deep and meaningful friendships. Maybe it’s not a full on party – maybe it’s going on a brisk walk for exercise and a good chat. It could be meeting up at the grocery store and perusing the aisles together. Find ways to work your friends into your every day lives. It has not always been easy, but it has always been worth prioritizing regular phone chats/prayer dates with my friend and prayer partner, Tara. For over a decade, we’ve set aside one morning a week to get on the phone (we now live 10 hrs apart) and discuss everything from what we’re reading to our kid’s antics. We always end in prayer for one another. Usually I am talking while I’m chopping veggies, emptying the dishwasher or on the track at the YMCA. At times this has been inconvenient for both of us, especially when our kids were young, but it’s been worth every inopportune moment . Many prayers were interrupted by kids who needed a Go-gurt or wanted a new Paw Patrol put on for them. But, we didn’t make excuse – and our lives and our relationship now reveal the time we’ve given one another. I can’t imaging getting through some dark seasons of my life without her.

Take TIME. Don’t Rush. You can’t build Rome in a day, and you can’t build a forever friend in five minutes. I have moved many times in my adult life. I’ve built relationships that I’ve had to move away from. I’ve had to start from scratch, and believe me, it’s hard. Thankfully I am an extrovert and I don’t mind initiating conversation, but it’s always difficult to put myself out there, and it’s heartbreaking to not be known. You may know all too painfully well what I mean. I have hit it off with women in the first five minutes and know I could be BFFs, but they have no idea what my most embarrassing moment is, or what my sister’s name is. Like Ben Rector’s song says – you can’t make old friends. For the discouraged gals out there who are wishing, hoping and praying to be fully known and to have strong heart connections, remember that you have to make history over time. And, remember, like me and Tara – make a point to continue friendships that you value, even if miles, schedules or circumstances divide you.

Include the Lord. – Just like we need God to be the center of our marriages and the head of our households, our friendships desperately need The Lord. When relationships center around God, they are healthier, more intimate, they challenge you (iron sharpening iron) and will be just what you need. It is essential to have the Fruit of the Spirit in our relationships. Without love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, our friendships would be up a creek and drown real fast. This is where I’m tempted to quote an old Smitty tune…ok, I will.. “Friends are Friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them….”

Don’t Flake Out!!! -If you say you’re going to do something or be somewhere, please follow through!!! I have found it’s not enough just to say “We should do that some time” or “I’ll be praying for you” – DO IT – NOW! Make yourself available. Grab your calendar and make the plans. I had a woman admit to me her frustrations that her friends don’t have time for her. They book play dates two months out and then are known to bail last minute. Don’t be that “friend” who routinely doesn’t return messages, bails on commitments or fails to look up and say hello in Target. Busyness does not justify flakiness or impoliteness. Neglecting common courtesy is not being a friend!

Be Inclusive – It certainly always hasn’t been the case, but I have been learning to remember the golden rule when it comes to my friendships. For those of you who have forgotten, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Certainly, living by this rule would help cure the “flake out” syndrome I discussed above, but what it will also help eliminate is the wallflower, the third wheel and the one who feels like the outsider. No one wants to be, or even just feel excluded. We all want to belong. I know how difficult it feels to not fit in. And so, in my adult hood, I strive to make the women around me feel invited in – like they are wanted and valued – especially those that I can sense may not feel that way. Be sensitive, and keep your feelers up, ladies! Go out of your way to be inclusive.

Don’t Pigeon Hole Your Friendships – Don’t be too picky or pigeon holed in your friendship choices. Having said that, certainly be picky about the character of your inner circle of friends. Scripture tells us that bad company corrupts good character, but (s)he who walks with the wise becomes wise (1 Cor. 15:33, Proverbs 13:20). But, be careful not to deny a friendship simply because she’s not what you think you’re looking for. You may miss out.  I have come to realize that it is wise to open my eyes to potential friendships that might not be “exactly” what I think I’m looking for. Some of the friends I treasure the most aren’t my age or in my phase of life, don’t share my profession, personality or interests. In our years of pastoring and ministry, we have been partnered with people who I’d never think I’d become close friends with, but have been pleasantly surprised by. I would have sorely missed out on fun, beautiful, challenging and supportive relationships if I initially wrote off the women who aren’t like me. So, keep an open mind and don’t judge a book by it’s cover! God knows best, and He knows what you need!

Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I need You” My husband travels A LOT, which has the potential to leave me quite lonely. If I didn’t reach out to friends to say “I need you” to come over and keep me company and watch a chick flick, I’d be all by my pathetic lonesome self. My friends would never know I need them if I did not tell them. Thankfully, most of the time they are able and more than willing to be there for me, and we have a great time. I encourage you to reach out and let others know they are needed and wanted. You will be warmly received. Promise!

Call, or Better Yet, FaceTime an Old Friend – I love making new friends. But, sometimes we just want to feel and be known – and that only happens when we connect with the friends we had growing up, or at least who have known us for what feels like a lifetime. I feel the most “myself” around the friends who have known me the longest and have been around my family. They’ve been with me through tough situations and they share hilarious moments with me. Most of those girls live half way around the country, or the world now, and I miss them. Thankfully, the world has become smaller with technology. I am glad that I can see their family pictures on Facebook. Social media is great for that. There is more we can do to connect, though. The times I’ve picked up the phone or set up a Skype date with an old friend, I have felt so known and loved, and such warm fuzzies. I need to do that more often. I encourage you to find someone who truly knows you too, and, whether they are near or far and even if you haven’t heard from them in eons, reach out and reconnect. You’ll be glad you did. I challenge you to reconnect with at least one friend as soon as you’re done reading this post!

Maybe you aren’t currently experiencing loneliness. My plea to you is that you consider the ones who may be. Reach out to the new girl, the wall flower, the hurting. Be the friend to someone else, like you’re so very glad someone else was to you. 

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