Kia ora e te whanau
We are built for connection. We are not solitary people. We are connected in families, in partnerships and marriages, in friendship groups, in teams and by many other social links. When we are disconnected, we feel lonely, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. This week is Anti-bullying awareness week. It’s an issue that has grown in significance during the pandemic. When we feel left out or are purposely excluded from friendship groups it can be extremely lonely and it is a form of bullying.
- We can feel lonely when we are with our friends, our family or our social group - even when we are in a crowd.
- We can feel lonely or detached if we feel left out of certain conversations or activities.
- We can feel lonely because we have no one to discuss a problem with, in confidence. This can make us realise that the relationships that we have are fairly shallow.
- We can feel lonely if we sense that we’re out of tune with others’ expectations because ours are starting to drift in a different direction.
There are probably some members of our community reading this who would describe themselves as feeling lonely right now.
In terms of our mental health, loneliness can result in depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety and low self-esteem. Over time, loneliness can also affect our physical health. We lose fitness, our energy levels reduce and even our immune systems can be impaired. This is why it is important for us to learn some strategies to handle loneliness.
Jesus had times when he was lonely. The Bible uses words from an Old Testament prophecy to describe his experience, particularly at the crucifixion: “We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him – we ignored him as if he were nothing.” (Isaiah 53.3) Jesus’ final words as he died - ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27.46) - indicate the total loneliness that he felt. Christians believe that this is a sign of how closely Jesus identifies with us and sympathises with us when we experience loneliness. I overheard a group of year 7 students discussing why Jesus would like pink shirt day this week- they said: He would like it because he was bullied too!
This is why, in creating his Church, Jesus emphasised that it was to be a community of people in relationship. St Paul expands on this by likening the Church to a body, with many different limbs and organs connected together. We are built for connection.
Loneliness has always been around; it isn’t a new phenomenon. To alleviate it, we can try some of the following:
- Volunteering at a local charity.
- Doing an unexpected favour for someone in our community.
- Smiling and saying hello to complete strangers.
- Exercising. Our bodies will automatically produce endorphins and we never know who we might meet at the gym, on a walk or on a run.