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Break Free from Loneliness

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The God of the Bible showed that humans need others when He observed about Adam, "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). This simple statement speaks to our basic need to form relationships, without which we will become lonely.


Tyler is depressed. At 16 years old, he expected to have a girlfriend by now. When he walks the hallways at school, he notices the usual couples laughing and hanging out together. Tyler sees cute girls he would love to have the courage to talk to, but he finds it scary even to look them in the eye. The more he thinks about it the deeper his frustration and despair becomes.

Ashley, 14, comes home to an empty house every day after school. Her parents have careers, so Ashley has learned to cope on her own. When she was younger, she had a close relationship with her mother, but now she feels no one really takes the time to know her. Feeling confused by so much of her complicated teenage world, she wishes she could have that close relationship back.

Michael's life has never been easy. He never knew his father. His mother does her best to be a good parent, but has her own problems. Michael has recently been drawn to the "outsider" clique in his ninth-grade class—a group of boys whose clothes and music reflect a growing anger that is welling up inside each of them. They have started to steal food and liquor to share with friends while they hang out. Michael knows in his heart that this is not the best group of friends for him, but at least they understand and accept him.

What do these three young people have in common? They are all lonely.

What is loneliness? It is complicated. It is not just one thing—and it can be caused by any number of factors. Some feel that no one else shares their values. Some feel they have no one to share their life with. Some simply feel that no one cares about them. These feelings can lead to a sense of isolation and alienation—and to a deep sadness, even despondency, making ordinary life more painful than the people around them can understand.

We Need Others

For prisoners, solitary confinement is considered a severe punishment. Despite the temptation to talk tough—"I don't need anyone else"—the fact is that human beings are social beings, and we need contact with others to maintain our well-being.

Why is that? One physiological reason may be that our limbic system—the section of the brain that controls emotion—is subject to "limbic regulation" through other people's emotional influence on us. Authors Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon point to neurological research suggesting that connections with others are natural and important. They write: "Our neural architecture places relationships at the crux of our lives, where, blazing and warm, they have the power to stabilize. When people are hurting and out of balance, they turn to regulating affiliations: groups, clubs, pets, marriages, friendships, masseuses, chiropractors, the Internet. All carry at least the potential for emotional connection" (A General Theory of Love, p. 170).

The God of the Bible showed that humans need others when He observed about Adam, "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). This simple statement speaks to our basic need to form relationships, without which we will become lonely.

Coping with the Teen Years

Teenagers feel a special pressure to succeed at social contacts. With growing maturity comes the need to find identity. Teens react to positive or negative reinforcement from peers, learning what behaviors are and are not accepted. Yet at the same time, changes beyond their control are occurring—hormones are kicking in that influence physical development, while breaking voices, acne and growth spurts are wreaking havoc with self-image. This is an awkward time for just about everyone.

Yet this is also a time when developing good friendships is vital. Teens who succeed are laying a foundation for an adult sense of self-worth and acceptance. Some, however, enter adulthood full of self-doubt, because they never felt they had learned to make satisfying personal connections.

Loneliness is a way of life for too many young people, and often it is intensified by factors beyond their control. Whether it is their parents' divorce, or an abusive relationship, or problems at school, the "reasons" for loneliness are hard to separate from the pain it brings.

Are you lonely? Maybe you made a mistake and are suffering the consequences. But even if you understand that it is not your fault, your heart still aches. It is this aching that can lead to despair and depression. Sometimes people turn to destructive behaviors in order to cope—or at least to get attention—such as cutting themselves, abusing drugs or alcohol, or engaging in sexual activity. Sadly, such misguided attempts to deal with the pain inevitably lead to more despair and deeper depression.

At some point, the downward spiral must be broken. Old patterns must be changed, otherwise disaster—even death—may be the result. But how can this be done?

Breaking Free

Nearly everyone experiences loneliness from time to time, but it usually passes. Chronic loneliness, however—the kind that never goes away—is a different matter. Even if the cause of our loneliness is not of our making, it is our fault if we neglect the simple steps that can prevent temporary loneliness from spiraling into deep depression. What are some of the steps?

  • Take care of your health. Some depression is chemical, and what we put into our bodies can affect our feelings about life. Be sure to eat plenty of the freshest fruits and vegetables you can, and to drink the cleanest water available. Do not be satisfied with a diet of just junk food and sugary sodas. Get some exercise—even just walking for 30 minutes a day, three or four times a week, can make a big difference!
  • Connect with others. There are other people who like some of the same things you like, or who believe the things you believe. Although it may be difficult at first, making the effort to meet some of those people will change your life. Reach out to people who share your interests, and soon your loneliness will cease. One of the best ways to break through loneliness is to realize that there are other lonely people, and that you may be able to help them. Is there someone in your community who needs help? It does not need to be something big; maybe just taking the time to listen to an elderly shut-in or encouraging a niece or nephew by playing catch. Making a difference in someone else's life will make a big difference in your own.
  • Connect to God. If you have not really tried this, it may seem like a cliché, but it is true—you are never alone when you are with God. So, how can you build your relationship with Him? One way you could start is by reading the Psalms. There you will find the whole range of human emotions expressed—anger, depression and confusion, as well as joy and happiness. Ancient King David cried out to God both in sorrow and in joy—and we can, too! God wants us to call out to Him with our deepest emotions! We will never shock or overwhelm Him when we do, and we will always find solace in knowing that He cares and wants only the best for us.

God has shown us a way of life, as revealed in the pages of your Bible, that can help bring an end to the pain of loneliness. Reach out to Him, and you can break free!

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