Finding God and Ourselves in Times of Loneliness (1/3)

No one wants to be lonely, yet loneliness is part of our human journey. It is one of the deepest, most universal, and most profound experience that we have as human beings. While it is hard to admit our loneliness and its pains, we should recognize that it is not simply a mark of shame and weakness. It could happen to the most visibly normal and seemingly healthy people. Therefore, there should be no stigma given to this intimate and natural feeling and struggle. Loneliness is only dangerous and detrimental when it is not recognized, accepted, and discerned properly through a holistic understanding of our human identity.

While we all yearn for full, intimate, satisfactory and euphoric union with God and others, moments of pain and loneliness are parts of our very innate desire and universal language of love. There are several ways to deal with this type of creative tensions, yet many allowed themselves to be consumed by daily routines and busybody works that take up their time, energy, and creativity so they do not have to worry about the awkward silence; however, this is often the beginning of many problems as we try to ignore, forget, and silence the necessary soul-searching opportunity in its utmost depth. As our world becomes more self-centered and individualistic, the family connection and sense of communal identity lessened, this intensified loneliness because it undercuts much of the interdependence that was foundational for many of our older generations. Constantly being occupied by whatever is in front of us and on-screen, envy and self-pity kick in as we become unhappy, seeing the different things being presented but can never seem to attain fully. Now with the pace of life ever increasing in tempo, technology and social media occupying many parts of our daily interactions, we find it harder to relate and communicate well, especially matters of the heart. Hence, all of these cultural and social phenomena create an ever-increasing sense of loneliness because we feel inadequate, frustrated, and unhappy in a consumeristic world.

There are some signs that we can recognize when things that are occupying our lives become toxic and detrimental. It is important to realize the potential pitfalls before they become destructive of real human intimacy and love. First of all, when we are unhappy with what we have and with our own lives, it is very easy to become jealous and overly possessive of our friends and loved ones. We are scared to share and let go because we want to be loved so badly that we try to locked everyone in and choke them through control and manipulation. Some signs of this over-possessiveness are outrageous demands for time, affection, and exclusivity. Paradoxically speaking, as we try hard to control and win people’s friendship, we end up alienating ourselves from them as we counterproductively overexert ourselves. It is important to remember that no relationship, no friend, nothing, however deep or intimate, can ever fully take our loneliness away. To put that unrealistic demands upon those who are around us are futile because they are not meant to save us or make us happy.

Many people go through life frustrated and restless, because they let their raw energies push them from one direction to the next, never able to be content or settle down, not willing to take the time to reflect, discern, and pray about what they are called to do, nor have enough discipline to achieve the ends all of us are meant to attain in the eyes of God. These are the basic causes of a self-inflicted desolation through spiritual sloth and narrow-visioned understanding of reality. As complex yet confusing human beings, it is very easy to become infatuated with certain things, hung up on certain people, nostalgic about certain past people or events, and caught up with unrealistic daydreams and fantasies. Yet, all these things make us lose focus on the present moment in order to truly give ourselves to the event and people who are present in our lives. Even though we want to be possessive of relationships, we cannot genuinely and dutifully give ourselves totally, we put on a facade of presence to play along or to get what we want but still go home and be alone. Too many people want everything or more than what they can actually receive or give genuinely, hence ending up with nothing except their own self that is hurt. It is important to know that we cannot have it all, for every sincere choice and relationship is a necessary limitation to other competing goods.

Loneliness, when unchecked, leads us to premature and irresponsible actions in order to silence the pains and hurts, to fill the void of the heart, or manipulatively objectifying other people to get what we want for the present moment. Drugs, meaningless sexual encounters, or other addictive outlets, are but few of these self-centered and attractively false solutions. These options end up objectifying people and dehumanize them by weakening our God-given dignity, disrespect them and ourselves through manipulative means, and further destroy our real self-esteem. We become more hurt deep from within, yet hardened and insensitive because we do not want to be hurt by others but willing to use others to get what we want. A hardened, embittered, controlling, insensitive, and manipulative person is nothing more than a person who is too hurt and too scared to come to grips with his or her own loneliness! A desensitized person, frozen by his or her own fears, is incapable to feel anything real and everlasting except for what can be felt sensibly or temporary at the moment. It is very easy to resist redemption because we do not want to cry, to admit our guilt, to own up to our pains, sufferings and hurts, and to reach out for help.

All these diverse feelings of restlessness, emptiness, longing, alienation, paranoia, loneliness, guilt, shame, and the likes are both painful confusion and creative tension. They are there to remind us that we are humans, emotionally alive and well, but we cannot save ourselves. There are things that we cannot solve ourselves because there is a spot in us that will not be filled, a thirst that cannot be quenched, and a hunger that cannot be satisfied by any human or social mean. We can rationalize and try to control them, yet continued to be unhappy and cynical as we try to force ourselves in doing fruitless and tiring things to the soul, but the abiding pains are still there. When undealt with, these things make us into a not very beautiful person who constantly complaining, forming unfair judgments, and seeing the world in a negative and distorted way because we try to rationalize and control everything our way. We play games with others, break down relationships, isolate, make us tired, sour our attitudes, destroy our freedom, and make us repulsive. Sadly, these things enslave us because we end up doing things that are no longer really expressive of our true selves. We become powerless to be our own person because we are locked in our own created hell. Loneliness and its pains make us locked up in our own emotional, psychological, and even physical handicaps through rejection, separation, and or anything else that could possibly invite genuine intimacy and interpersonal love.

This constant, ever-present sense of not belonging is often caused by our own fears, especially the fear of commitment and faithfulness. Too many of our life choices are being held back by our own refusal to commit and give ourselves wholeheartedly or permanently to anything beyond our calculative control or understanding. It is too easy to play the game to ultimately benefit us in some ways at the end of the day than to truly be vulnerable, honest, genuine, and transparent with another person. Cheap commitments, broken promises, empty words, hasty decisions, unfaithfulness, and short-lived loyalty are but a few of these things that keep everyone to themselves, wanting something more but too scared to truly give any substantial. Authentic relationship, trust, and growth cannot be forced or calculated in our own time but must be given enough time, treated with patience and respect so that they can have time to develop instead of taking cheap shortcuts.

Therefore, the only solution is to go beyond ourselves, reach deep from within, and see ourselves as we are in the everlasting, timeless, and never-changing love of God. Before we were born in our own mother’s womb, we were loved into being by the Almighty. That love has left a permanent mark, the everlasting imprint of a love so tender and good that its transcendental memory can be seen through every vestige, encounter, relationship, person, or thing found in this world. It lies beyond our natural or human understanding but forms the center of our heart and soul. The only salvific redemption from our own loneliness is the journey that seeks and to be in touch with the everlasting love that gives us life and makes us who we are today. This timeless love makes every moment, encounter, and person in time makes sense and become meaningful with love, by love, and through love.

— To be continued next week with Part 2