You’re online, looking at photos of a recent party. All your friends are there, and they’re obviously having a great time. But something is missing. More specifically, someone is missing—you!
‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ you wonder.
Your curiosity turns to bitterness. You feel betrayed! It’s as if all your relationships have collapsed like a flimsy house of cards. A wave of loneliness washes over you, and you ask yourself, ‘Why don’t I have any friends?’
True or False
If you have lots of friends, you will never be lonely.
If you join a social network, you will never be lonely.
If you do a lot of texting, you will never be lonely.
If you do things for others, you will never be lonely.
The answer to all four statements is false.
The facts about friendship and loneliness
Having lots of friends is no guarantee that you will never be lonely.
“I care about my friends, but sometimes I don’t think that they care about me in return. You can feel the worst kind of loneliness when you’re surrounded by friends but they don’t seem to love you back or need you.”—Anne.
Joining a social network is no guarantee that you will never be lonely.
“Some people collect friends the way others collect figurines. But having a roomful of collectibles never made anyone feel loved. If you don’t have meaningful relationships, online friends are as good to you as lifeless figurines.”—Elaine.
Unlimited texting is no guarantee that you will never be lonely.
“Sometimes when you’re lonely you keep checking your phone to see if any of your friends have sent you a message. And when you’re already feeling lonely and you notice that no one has tried to contact you, that can make you feel even worse!”—Serena.
Doing things for others is no guarantee that you will never be lonely.
“I’ve always tried to be generous with my friends, but I notice that they haven’t treated me the same way. I don’t regret being generous with them, but it feels a little strange that they’ve never really returned the kindnesses.”—Richard.
The bottom line: Loneliness is, above all else, a mind-set. “It comes from inside a person, not from outside,” says a young woman named Jeanette.
What can you do if you feel friendless and lonely?
How to win the battle
Work on your self-confidence.
“Loneliness can stem from insecurities. It’s hard to reach out and be open to friendships when you don’t feel that you are worth another person’s interest.”—Jeanette.
The Bible says: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) To enjoy healthy friendships, we need to have a measure of self-worth—without, of course, veering into selfish pride.—Galatians 6:3, 4.
“Loneliness is like quicksand. The more you wallow in it, the harder it is to get out of it. If you let it consume your thinking, soon you’ll have a full-fledged pity party that no one else wants to go to.”—Erin.
The Bible says: “Love . . . does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) The fact is, when we focus too much on ourselves, we become less compassionate and are therefore less likely to attract friends. (2 Corinthians 12:15) Let’s face it: When your success is measured by how others act, you are setting yourself up to fail! Really, statements such as “No one ever calls me” and “No one ever invites me anywhere” put your happiness in the hands of others. Isn’t that giving them a little too much power?
Don’t settle for just anyone as a friend.
“Lonely people want attention, and they can get to a point where they don’t care who that attention comes from. They just want to feel wanted. But some people will make you feel wanted and then use you. Then you’ll feel lonelier than ever.”—Brianne.
The Bible says: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) A starving person will eat almost anything. In a similar way, people who are starved for friends could look for friendship in all the wrong places. They could even become easy targets for manipulators, thinking that such relationships are normal and that they shouldn’t expect anything better.
Conclusion: Everyone gets lonely at times; it’s just a matter of degree. And while loneliness can be a devastating feeling, in the end it’s just that—a feeling. Our feelings are usually preceded by our thoughts, and we can take control of our thoughts.
Be realistic, too, in what you expect of others. “Not every person is going to be your best friend forever,” says Jeanette, quoted earlier, “but you will find people who care about you. And care is enough. That’s what helps keep loneliness at bay.”