Loneliness: You know what I mean?

IMG_0486 ducks 3

 

 

Was it something I said?
Was it something I said?

 

There is a strain of loneliness infecting many Christians which only the presence of God can cure.A.W. Tozer

I don’t remember where I heard this said about people in the arts who venture into the public eye, but it stuck with me: Artists want to be noticed, musicians want to be heard, actors want to be loved, and writers want desperately to be understood.

It takes a certain amount of courage to venture into a field that exposes one’s inner thoughts and then depends upon the approval of strangers to make a living. I suppose the same could be said for other fields requiring vulnerability, from stripping to politics to scientific research. Even accountants and morticians need approval to keep their jobs. But some people have a greater drive to make connections. Some people are more acutely aware of loneliness.

Writers strive to find a dozen ways to phrase a thought hoping to find the one that brings a response to the question, “Do you know what I mean?” Ya know?

Yet even the most successful artistic people in the world can have a profound sense of loneliness. Sometimes a success backfires and arouses jealousy. Have you noticed how the critics are drawn like moths to the flame of a book or article that gains popular approval?

I absolutely love how Lara Merz responded to an interview question about how to handle negative reviews: “I would say try not to take things too personally, especially if the reviewer is someone you are not in relationship with. There is something about honesty from a loved one or deep friend who cares about who you are, and who you are becoming that is often worth taking heed to, but strangers are trickier because we know nothing of who they are, how healthy they are and the why the book was pushing buttons. Buttons get pushed for many reasons and most of them have very little to do with what pushed the buttons, but rather why there are buttons there in the first place.”

For approval junkies like me criticism can be devastating, because I have buttons. The truth is we all have buttons. Until we are perfectly healed and know we are deeply loved by God we are all offendable and will take off  (or bite back) when we feel threatened. Maybe that’s the definition of maturity – having fewer and fewer buttons.

The healing strength of approval and connection that comes from friends and spouses is beautiful but in a way tasting that love can create an even greater awareness of loneliness. Sometimes we find ourselves tempted to compromise on values to maintain those connections. A lot of people use service to the needy as a means to overcome loneliness, hoping dependency on the care-giver will create a strong bond. And I hate to break this to those of you who are in search of the perfect mate. It is possible to be profoundly lonely in even the very best marriage.

There comes a time when we have to admit that our most loyal fans, our closest friends and even our faithful lover do not understand us. When we accidentally touch one of their buttons they will also fly away emotionally. My point is that there is only one reliable source of approval, and that is from the One who created us to be who we are and notices, hears, loves and understands perfectly.

There are some who are called to walk closely with the Lord. Part of their training necessarily involves rejection, and it will occur again and again until they understand that God is jealous for their attention, their love. They cannot give unselfish love until they have received unselfish love from the only One capable of giving it and who heals their hearts.

If you find yourself in a lonely place, pay attention to the quiet. It’s Jesus calling.

20 thoughts on “Loneliness: You know what I mean?

  1. Nansea

    This photograph would make a perfect advanced puzzle. I keep looking at it seeing something new.
    I was trying to fit the myriad of ducks with the topic of feeling lonely.
    It could be as simple as the birds of a feather, flock together…

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    1. Ah, sorry. I should have explained it. I was walking through a crowd of ducks taking photos. They seemed to be quite content having me do so, when all of a sudden, for no reason obvious to me, they all suddenly became skittish and took flight. The connection for me was being in a group of people who seem to be enjoying each others company when all of a sudden they take off leaving one standing alone wondering what they did to set that reaction off. I just added a “before” photo.

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  2. As a puzzle person I agree, both photos would be great!
    To the puzzle of life and loneliness…this piece fits in amazing ways. “There are some who are called to walk closely with the Lord. Part of their training necessarily involves rejection, and it will occur again and again until they understand that God is jealous for their attention, their love. They cannot give unselfish love until they have received unselfish love from the only One capable of giving it and who heals their hearts.”
    Blessings to you and yours

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  3. Thank you, Charis. I mentioned ‘loneliness’ to Cheryl the other day in an email. Might you have been listening in? 🙂 Bless you heart as you bless ours with your real writing. Ya know? Why, yes I do.

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  4. Very appropriate! I’m noticing a lot of articles on the push/pull of public relationships. Some people are in a season of backing away because they’re in too deep and it’s draining. It resulted in my article “Pruning Friendships” touching on a current trend of dropping friends casually. Then others are reaching out for more and finding a lot of drama and crisis landing in their eager laps. It’s quite the balancing act. But Father’s ‘company’ is the fully satisfying sort. Thank you for your thoughts, Charis.

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    1. It’s not easy to figure out this costly love and setting healthy boundaries conundrum, is it? I’m not one to prune friendships casually either. I think I have done it twice, and only when repeated boundary violations threatened family relationships. Our longing for connection makes us vulnerable to being used -or to using others- and seriously compromises trust. Oh how we need the wisdom of Holy Spirit to know which suspicious lonely people at a well at midday need us to come closer and which needy people seeking to make our sympathetic attention their drug of choice will be so draining that it is worth walking across a lake to get away from them. Perhaps having our own essential need for approval filled by God enables us to participate in “the balancing act” with more wisdom. Thus the lonely seasons.

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  5. I am positive the Lord nudged you to write this for me today… He is reminding me that the only real and fulfilling love and acceptance comes from Him, and not my marriage. It seems I still have a long way to go in receiving His unselfish love and allowing Him to heal my heart so that I can give unselfish love… *sigh*

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