Mother Teresa, speaking about America once said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.”
We experience loneliness when we feel disconnected. I know that feeling well. Upon resigning from my first church, the church I had planted and loved for twenty years, I felt deep loneliness. It was the only time in my life where I felt like a failure.
All of us know that feeling. As I have studied and researched loneliness, the one common denominator is disconnection. We feel, perceived or actual, that we are outside of the group that we value. At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction.
All of us want to belong. Our neural, hormonal and genetic makeup support connection. Even the most introverted individual longs for it. I would say I’m a borderline introvert. I love being alone. Being alone and loneliness are not the same thing.
Dr. John Cacioppo, a neuroscience researcher of loneliness writes, “To grow to adulthood as a social species, a human, is not becoming autonomous and solitary, it’s to become the one on whom others can depend. Whether we know it or not, our brain and biology have been shaped to favor this outcome.” In other words, we are wired not for rugged independence, (the American way), but rather, interdependence, (God’s way), with others.
It’s not just a biological fact, but a spiritual truth, that all of us need to be needed. God wired us that way. It’s when we plan, communicate and work together that we find life. This Christmas, work hard at connecting, for in connecting we discover true belonging.
On the road of belonging,
Steve Holt D.D. MA