Have you ever felt lonely? I have. I’ve felt lonely when I was alone and lonely when I was with hundreds of people. Loneliness can be deep in your heart or it can be a momentary missing of someone. The dictionary definition of lonely is: sadness because one has no friends or company. From my experience with loneliness, I don’t feel like this definition is very accurate. I had friends, I even had company, and yet I still felt lonely. How then can we define loneliness more accurately?
I asked those who follow my facebook (Jules Kilson, LPC) to help me with a better definition. Here’s what some of you said:
“A feeling of isolation regardless of how many people you are around.” LH
“Not having someone to closely connect with.” PK
“A deficiency of human contact.” JK
“A void that seemingly cannot be filled, no matter who you’re surrounded by or the environment in which you live.” EK
“Walking into my empty house and going without human interaction.” LC
“A self-induced social hiatus.” KH
Feeling of isolation, lack of connection, lack of contact and interaction, a void, a social hiatus. I asked the author of the last one if that is refreshing or lonely, and they said both. In our culture, we can get overwhelmed with being constantly connected to others
electronically. But, we are made to be in community. We desire connections and interactions. When we are deprived of these things, voluntarily or not, we are lonely.
I think that we desire authentic connection. We desire to be truly known and accepted by someone else. We desire interactions that are genuine and intentional. Interactions that are specific to us. We desire physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual contact with others that is deep and meaningful.
Both times I was in Africa, I was so impressed by a small gesture that is a part of their culture. When you enter, someone says,”You are welcome.” At first, I thought I was being chastised for not saying thank you for something. When was the last time you were told you were welcome somewhere? It feels good to the recipient. It felt good to walk into my office and have my friend Mgbechi tell me I was welcome with her, or my friend Michael say I was welcome in the car with him, or my friend Destiny say I was welcome in the kitchen while she was cooking. It made me feel noticed when my friend Rose in Uganda would say I was welcome on the patio with her. I knew they didn’t mind if I shared the space, but to hear them say it to me was a deeper acceptance of my presence.
Maybe that’s what I was missing when I was lonely. A deep acceptance of my presence by someone. Authentic connection, genuine, intentional interactions that were specific to me. Contact that was deeper than the surface and meaningful. Now that we figured that out, what can we do to manifest that in our lives and in the lives of others? How can we create connections, interactions and contacts that fill that void? I believe we can look at these things we have identified and see what is missing for us. Maybe we are scared. Maybe we are scarred. Maybe we are cautious. Maybe we can just start by saying “you are welcome” to someone else.
Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,