Let’s get real. The ache of loneliness can be one of the hardest pills to swallow. The depths of this feeling range from necessary to excruciatingly painful. Because as believers and imitators of Christ, in the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori, “a certain amount of silence and solitude is necessary for our spiritual well-being.” Yet also, a certain amount of communion with others is necessary for our spiritual well-being.
If you’ve ever had the gift of receiving a “soul-mate” in your life—either romantically, in a familial bond, or great friendship—you know how treasurable that gift is. When you find certain people who you automatically click with, the ones you feel like you were “separated at birth” with, or “meant to be with” (again, romantically or not) it strengthens you, and molds you in a way you could never find on your own. And if their company even allows you to get a vivid reflection of the Lord’s presence and grow deeper in your faith then all is right in the world! These kind of bonds ignite our soul, leaves us filled with peace, and allows us to mature and blossom. The joy it contains and the fruit it bears helps us in our sanctification.
So when these bonds are absent, taken away, or just not present in our lives, it’s hard to open up. We may even become numb to the world, depressed, or closed off to the people around us. We are called to walk with others in this journey, and we are called to lead others to Christ, so when the emptiness that comes with this matter is hard to push through, let’s remember a couple things:
“Lonliness” can be sneaky. I always remind myself “I’d rather sit in by myself, alone, than feel lonely around a group of friends.” (because either way, I’m lonely). Likewise, if my friends aren’t nourishing my spirituality or humanity, maybe I do need time to myself for a bit. Likewise, when it comes to dating relationships, we can be lonely in those too—so sometimes its better to be single. You can be sitting next to someone and feel nothing (it’s awful if you’ve experienced it). So keep in tune with your God-given intuition, and have a mature outlook on all your relationships. Your intuition is a gift that helps you discern who you’re called to know deeper and be with more closely.
If you think loneliness might stem from a breakup or a change in lifestyle habits, contemplate why your better off, how you can better your time in a way that betters yourself from the past, and look for opportunities to exercise that. Join a group, volunteer your time, ask others to talk about themselves, or reach out to someone you know who undergoes this hardship. Simply doing something for another person expands our life in deeper, more meaningful ways.
Remember that loneliness is different from solitude. Solitude refreshes. We should all set aside time for solitude because this is where God works. God loves silence and we should appreciate it more. It’s the only intimate time we get to share with Our Lord and the time we get to discern His will for us. The time we get to ask Him for new friends if we want that. Don’t forget to give yourself this time, every day.
Through personal experience, when I decided to hit the “reset” button on life and strive for all things virtue, it was a pretty lonely adjustment. I discerned in that time that God wanted me all to himself for a little bit. The time I spent alone molded me into who I currently am. I firmly believe I wouldn’t have the strength I have if I didn’t use that solitude for good. In it, I discovered the Lord, I started to get a sense for what I wanted in life, who I wanted to be, and what I was living for.
And now I’m putting that all into place and I won’t settle for less than what I told myself I wanted. Maybe this is that time for you?
Mother Theresa said loneliness is the greatest poverty a person can experience and the veracity of that statement runs deep in my heart. I have a soft spot in my heart for those who suffer this kind of pain—know of my prayers. That said, may you always remember this great truth:
“yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)