ALONE OR LONELY?
Recently, I come across an article written by Dr. Diana Gardner Robinson entitled: “Ways to turn being lonely into being comfortably alone”.
Dr. Gardner has this to say: “If we think of being alone as being lonely, then fear of loneliness can drive us into the company of people who will not contribute at all to the quality of our lives[i]”.
She also said that, “it is possible to turn loneliness into comfortable aloneness, so that when we socialize it is by choice, not because we are driven[ii]”.
TO SOCIALIZE BY CHOICE
Sometimes you need to be alone – not to be lonely but to enjoy your free time being yourself – that crazy, weird, and care-free you, warts and all.
It also means that when you attend gatherings and socialize, you chose to enjoy the company of others in that place in that time – without being driven by emotional emptiness and the need to be with other people. You can stay for 10 minutes or until the party is over, without the pressure of being compelled to stay. It’s a choice that you alone can make and others should respect that.
I’ve been away from home for sixteen months. There are times when I feel the heaviness of heart because I missed my kids and my wife so much. When loneliness strikes me, the first thing I do is to read my Bible, and then I pray. I chose to socialize with God. After all, God said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-6), so I trust in His promises because He alone is trustworthy.
SOCIALIZING DRIVEN BY LONELINESS
Lonely is not a feeling when you are alone; it is a feeling when no one cares. And in those moments of loneliness, the body activates a sort of coping mechanism from within to enable it to overcome the onslaught of dark emotions.
Some people would seek the presence of others because they feel a distorted sense of fear of being alone. They socialize because they are driven by fear of being left out, of being alone. And according to Dr. Robinson, such motivation to socialize would not really bring the best out of us and it will not contribute to the quality of our lives.
I suspect that the quality of interaction might not be conducive to fill that void inside one’s heart. Since the purpose is mainly to temporarily block off unpleasant feelings and get a quick fix, socializing in this sense is driven by selfish motives. Imagine a room of people fueled by the desire that advocates selfish interest: what kind of conversation or how sincere they are or how truthful each one could be.
Socializing driven by fear of loneliness is a dangerous path that must be travelled with extreme caution. A careless approach could inadvertently provoke a person to make stupid mistakes that would later become a source of grief, pain, and regret in life.
In closing, allow me to share to you what Paul Johannes Tillich said: “ Language has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone[iii]”.
So, are you alone or are you lonely? Really, it doesn’t matter. But how we look at these things can change the way we feel, and the choices we make on how to cope up.
[iii] Paul Johannes Tillich is the author of books such as Dynamic Faith, The New Being, The Shaking of the Foundation, and others. He is regarded as an Existentialist Philosopher and Theologian, regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.