“I had two girlfriends who would do things together and leave me out. I constantly heard about what a great time they had. One time I called my friend’s house while the other girl was there, and when someone else answered the phone, I could hear the two of them in the background, talking and laughing. I only got to hear the fun, which made me feel even more lonely than I already was!”—Maria. *
Have you ever felt left out and lonely? If so, the Bible has advice that can help you. First, though, consider a few things you should know about loneliness.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Nearly everyone feels lonely at times. That includes people who seem to be popular. Why? Because often it is not the quantity of friends but the quality of friendships that determines whether a person feels lonely. Someone who seems popular could constantly be surrounded by people but have no real friends and therefore feel lonely.
Loneliness can be hazardous to your health. Researchers who analyzed the results of 148 studies concluded that low social interaction is a predictor of early death and that as a risk factor, it is “twice as harmful as obesity” and “equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Loneliness can make you vulnerable. In fact, it could cause you to settle for anyone who would accept you as a friend. “When you’re lonely, you may be desperate for attention,” says a young man named Alan. “You could begin to think that any attention is better than no attention. And that can lead to trouble.”
Technology does not always cure loneliness. “I could text or e-mail a hundred people a day and still be incredibly lonely,” says a young woman named Natalie. A teenager named Tyler feels similarly. “Texting is like a snack, whereas face-to-face contact is like a meal,” he says. “Snacks are great, but you need a full meal to feel satisfied.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Assume the best. For example, suppose you go to a photo-sharing Web site and see pictures of your friends at a gathering to which you were not invited. At that moment, you have a choice—either to conclude that you were deliberately snubbed or to adopt a more positive outlook. Since you cannot know all the factors involved, why assume the worst? Instead, direct your energy toward thinking of a better explanation for your being excluded. Often, it is not the situation but your outlook that brings on feelings of loneliness.—Bible principle: Proverbs 15:15.
Avoid sweeping assertions. When you are lonely, you might think, ‘I never get invited anywhere’ or ‘People always avoid me.’ But those sweeping assertions will only make you sink deeper into the quicksand of loneliness. Such thoughts can create a vicious circle: You feel like an outcast, which makes you isolate yourself, which makes you lonely, which makes you feel like an outcast.—Bible principle: Proverbs 18:1.
Be willing to befriend those who are older than you. The Bible tells of the life of David, who was likely a teenager when he met Jonathan—a man 30 years older than he was. Despite their age difference, David and Jonathan became close friends. (1 Samuel 18:1) You could have the same thing happen in your life. “Recently, I’ve come to appreciate the value of having friends who are older than I am,” says 21-year-old Kiara. “I have some very dear friends decades older than I am, and I really appreciate their mature view of things and their stability.”—Bible principle: Job 12:12.
Appreciate the benefits of solitude. Some people feel lonely as soon as they face a moment of privacy. But simply being alone need not make you feel lonely. For example, Jesus was sociable, but he also appreciated the value of solitude. (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35) You can do the same. Instead of seeing your being alone as a disadvantage, use quiet time to reflect appreciatively on your blessings. That can make you an even more desirable friend to others.—Proverbs 13:20.
^ par. 4 Some names in this article have been changed.