The Cure for Loneliness
by Kim Wier
“Dateline: America – more than 50% will be infected by the epidemic.” Imagine if that headline were in tomorrow’s newspaper. Actually, it turns out that is old news. The new numbers are even higher—and the epidemic that is spreading out of control is loneliness.
Long before we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were already victims of a loneliness plague. Prior to being sent home from work and school, 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely living and working amongst the other 330 million citizens—and they comprise people of all ages and genders. Loneliness isn’t just for old folks anymore. A report released in January 2020 by Cigna Insurance revealed a 13% rise in loneliness over their 2018 research report. So, before mandatory isolation became a way of life for everybody, a majority were self-isolated from meaningful relationship. We can only imagine how high that number must be now after 12 months behind masks.
When three out of five (or more) of us are affected negatively, that is a crisis! And it isn’t just an emotional crisis. Research shows that loneliness is more detrimental to your health than factors like smoking and obesity. It has been shown to influence our immune system and put us at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Loneliness can even shorten a life. There is no vaccine to fight this epidemic, but I’ve got some good news: we already possess the cure. The cure for loneliness is creativity.
THE CREATIVITY CURE
Creativity is exactly what God used when He cured the first case of aloneness. God looked at Adam, the lone human on the planet and said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Then He applied His infinite creativity and made woman out of the rib of man.
Imagine all the ways God might have resolved the loneliness issue Adam faced. Talking zebras, cloning Adam—but He chose instead to get creative and do something new and different that He hadn’t already done. He made Eve. To cement their companionship, God set them to a task together (more creativity) caring for and cultivating His garden.
With only two people in community together, the loneliness problem was cured. Paradise wasn’t made complete by having enough people for Eve to have a girl’s weekend, or Adam a boy’s night out. It was declared “very good” because they were in meaningful relationship to one another and God, doing meaningful work together.
Even in isolation, the two thrived. We can too! What we need isn’t a crowd but creativity. Remember, 61% of us were lonely when we were in the midst of the crowds. It isn’t numbers we are missing but intimate connection. So, our first act of creativity when it comes to developing meaningful friendships is to think small. I’m from Texas where everything is bigger, so this is a challenge for me, but even if we could assemble a crowd, that is not how something meaningful is cultivated anyway. From that perspective, our limitations on group gatherings shouldn’t hinder the possibilities.
CONSIDER YOUR HOME
Along with small, put your imagination to work thinking about how you could use your home. Rather than wishing for the day we could get out of the house, look at it through the eyes of relationship-building. What aspects of your home could be a catalyst for connecting with someone else? It will be spring soon and that means opportunities for outdoor connection. Even now, do you have a firepit, an outdoor heater, a couple of electric blankets and an extension cord? All these are catalysts for connection. So are lawn chairs, walking shoes, front porch rocking chairs, crochet needles, dog leashes, rakes, potted plants, seeds, furniture waiting to be refinished, and so on. There are a multitude of ways we can connect with people by simply inviting them to do normal life with us as the first step to know and be known—even if normal means a mask and/or a little extra distance. Be creative.
CONSIDER YOUR CONNECTIONS
Next, think creatively about who to reach out to. Someone older you admire? Someone younger you might inspire? A coworker you enjoy talking to? A neighbor you have never met? A casual acquaintance you have something in common with? I was in a small women’s Sunday school class when one of the women bravely confessed, she was feeling lonely and struggling to find friends. Once she fessed up, another woman admitted, “Me too.” In our circle of eight women, seven were fighting the disease of loneliness. We didn’t know each other well, but I saw an opportunity. I went home, looked at the calendar and chose a date to throw my first ever “Pity Party.” I invited those women whose friend relationships, like mine, were pitiful. They were delighted. After lots of chocolate desserts, we sat around swapping our sad tales to see who would get the title, Most Pitiful. I even made a trophy. As we laughed, we also began to share meaningful things. It was the beginning of some amazing friendships that would continue to grow through the years. You might be surprised by what grows from your creative connections.
One of the hardest things to do after creatively planning will be to initiate. Reaching out to others means risking rejection and that taps into our deepest insecurities. The only way past that is to do something really creative—make it about the other person, not you. Jesus is the best model for this. He wanted His followers to understand that they were not just students to Him. He was their friend. He told them three things that proved His friendship. He said,
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:13-17).
For Jesus, friendship did not look inward and fret about self. He put the interest of His friends above His own (laying aside His life). He risked transparency (making His business known to His friends). He initiated (choosing them first). We are commanded to love friends in the same way because this is God’s creative cure for the epidemic of aloneness—not having friends but taking the initiative to be a friend.
Kim Wier is the author of The Art of Friendship: Creating and Keeping Relationships that Matter. She is a major-market talk radio host, Bible teacher, daily devotional writer for www.hopeondemand.com, and the host of The Art of Friendship Podcast. You can connect with Kim at www.kimwier.com
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