Loneliness can be more constant a companion than those expected to be its demise. Many of us assume we know the definition of loneliness, as if we memorized its meaning the moment we learned to spell it. Loneliness: the state of finding oneself alone and not wanting to be.
But is there something deeper to loneliness? Is it always an evil? Is it even often necessary? And why does it hurt even more when surrounded by friends? As many can attest to, why doesn’t it get lost in a crowd? Maybe its meaning is deeper than just a painful state of being alone involuntarily.
It is an unrestricted admission by all those who grant thought to it: no one likes to be lonely. It scares and hurts too much. Obviously, it doesn’t take long to become weary of loneliness. Its shadow lingers far more than anyone would like it to. Tears shed in loneliness often weigh more than tears shed otherwise. Sometimes when we are lonely time seems to run past us as we struggle breathlessly to keep up. Other times, a moment of loneliness lasts longer than any other moment on earth. Happiness is far more hurried in its glory than loneliness in its prime.
Such confessions though grant leniency to the thought that loneliness is a permanently harmful fact of life. But does it need to always be viewed with such a disfavored eye, as if it were a monstrosity with teeth bigger than the courage found in our hearts’ contents? For if it is a monster, and if monsters live under our beds and in our closets, then the monster’s name indeed must be “Loneliness.” However, if not, it may be something else and not to be feared. After all, there is a distinction between being lonely and being alone. Sometimes we want and need to be alone, away from the din of all the things and people that demand our attention and tempt our loyalty to the priorities and desires worth redeeming our time for.
So, in an era of trying to balance social media and social distancing while “we are all in this together,” we could easily confuse the distinction between loneliness and being alone. If we dare, where can we begin to examine if any good can come from loneliness? I will discuss this in my next post.