There is a significant difference between these two words which can be overlooked. Some people make healthy choices to spend time contentedly alone and find refreshment there. A naturally introverted person will gain energy, creativity and insight from time spent alone.
Loneliness, however, has been called ‘the greatest poverty’ by none other than Mother Theresa. This condition can exist independent of the number of people around, although it is often combined with too much unwanted time alone. ‘To feel lonely is to have an overwhelming feeling of being separate from those around you,’ (http://au.reachout.com/all-about-loneliness). Although it’s a common condition many people will experience during their lives, we don’t want it to linger for too long.
People aren’t necessarily lonely because they lack social skills or are poorly motivated. For example, they may have lost their former networks because of relocation or illness or because those around them have moved on in some way. However, loneliness leaves people feeling flat and less open to socialising, which can become a debilitating combination.
Let us, who are not currently experiencing loneliness, consider those who are. Are there people nearby who may be sad and lonely, and with whom we can engage? Do you know a single or elderly neighbour who is often alone and may welcome a chat? Can we help connect people to others by introducing them thoughtfully? Lane Cove is blessed with a plethora of community groups - many very keen to welcome newcomers. An invitation to accompany someone to a group the first time can be helpful. But it will often take an authentic, long term commitment for all involved to resolve loneliness satisfactorily. But even tough hurdles can be successfully negotiated with a network of support. By doing this, we, the community, create a place for the uniqueness that empowers us to stand contentedly alone, thereby lifting the fog of loneliness.
If you are experiencing loneliness and lacking support, take the first step and contact me and I will do my best to connect you appropriately.
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.