Banishing Spiritual Loneliness

Three practices for leaders (or anyone)
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I want more of God. Although I write and speak on spiritual formation, work with other Christians, have friends who encourage my faith, am married to a Christian man with whom I've raised Christian children, I still sometimes feel lonely. Not just emotionally lonely, but spiritually lonely—disconnected from God and my faith.

Leaders walk a lonely road. The leader of any enterprise, from a corporation to a small group, must ultimately make decisions that may be unpopular. Even if they consider others' opinions and feelings, leaders, by definition, must take responsibility and make decisions. That can feel lonely.

A position of spiritual leadership can add another layer of isolation. When you are caring for and mentoring others, guiding them spiritually, questions often nag at the back of your mind: Who's mentoring me? Where do I take my questions and doubts? If I'm supposed to be a role model/leader/encourager, who does that for me? And there's nothing like doubt to make you feel alone.

Banishing spiritual loneliness begins with being honest about the fact that you feel lonely to begin with. Acknowledge your feelings, then move forward by engaging in spiritual practices that will help you and those you lead.

Here are three strategies to combat spiritual loneliness as a leader.

Slow Down

Do you ever feel as if you're moving so fast through life that you don't really see the people around you? Or you do see them, but you feel annoyed at them far too often? Do you feel that you don't have time to really connect? Ironically, busyness (even with an overabundance of connections) can be isolating.

Slow down. For a day, or even a morning, try this: Do one thing at a time. Use "time chunking": allocate a chunk of time to one task, then move on to the next "chunk." Multi-tasking actually decreases efficiency.

Take time to look into the eyes of people you're meeting with, noticing their non-verbal communication. Listen without composing your next thought. Pause between tasks. Delegate some tasks, maybe. Or just let some things (which you might possibly be micromanaging unnecessarily) just go undone. (Could that be the reason you're so busy? Hmm.)

Our hurry can even taint our time with God—prayer becomes another item on a to-do list. We get more out of checking it off the list than we do actually being with God. Take time to slow down with God, even if you don't have a lot of time. Meditate on God's promises of love and acceptance. For example, start with 1 John 3. Focus on your identity in him; you are a deeply loved child of God.

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March 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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