It's Inevitable: We're Human, We're Christian, and We're Lonely
On the other hand, I think of the West African culture in which I was raised, where living and working together with others gets so interwoven into the daily fabric of life that one barely has the opportunity to sit in feelings of loneliness for very long. I've noticed that in many "developing" countries and in Southern Europe, cultural patterns provide ample opportunity for fostering intimate relationships over the mundane aspects of shared lives, with families across generations living together under one roof and random visitors showing up at your doorstep, only to be welcomed with a sense of hospitality.
As I continue to come across articles that deal with our loneliness—revealing not only the emotional effects of the condition, but physical ones, like illness and early death, as well—I wonder if we are talking about it in our communities, or just writing about it on the Internet?
As communities of faith we can and should reflect on what we might do to help one another respond well in those moments, hours, days, and seasons. As Christians, how do we prepare one another for the inevitability of loneliness, whether married, single, socially overactive or not?
The lonely can easily fall into the unfulfilling trap of the quick fix: the new romantic relationship or sexual encounter, the new material item, or novel experience that we hope will fill that space (turns out shopping is linked to loneliness). Loneliness can make our head lie to our heart and vice-versa.
As Christians, we're called to train one another in the theological virtue of caritas, as understood by Thomas Aquinas as friendship with God that ultimately leads to deepened friendship with one another. In that space, we learn to cultivate more genuine depths of safe intimacy with one another not merely for our own sakes but for the sake of the one who first called us friends and never sent his disciples out alone.
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