Combating Loneliness: Standing up for yourself and for the world

Photo by  Ian Schneider  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.

We’ve been tackling loneliness here at Arrowhead over the summer, and now we want to pull together a lot of the different idea-strands into this article. By no means is this a silver-bullet manual on fighting the feeling of loneliness. That will never exist (if it did, you know we’d be on Amazon Prime right now buying same-day delivery copies for the whole Arrowhead team).

But we can get better at combating loneliness, for our own sake and for the sake of those around us. We know that the opposite of loneliness is meaningful connection, and that these meaningful connections lead to personal growth and edification for those around us and our communities. Connection, then, is good. And that’s why this article is not so much about fighting against something, but is more about fighting for something. If loneliness is a void, after all, then fighting against it really amounts to fighting against the nothingness. We can’t have the opposite of loneliness without first having something. So finding the opposite of loneliness means fighting to be the people we want to be and fighting to convene the community we want to grow alongside. 

Instead, then, of a list of tips to find community or friends in the city, let’s focus primarily on leaning-in to the following values. When we become people who embody these values, we’ll become individuals who attract others to what looks like a sometimes radical way of life. 

We’re fighting to become authentic, confident, and intentional.

Authentic people show up in truth and vulnerability. They offer empathy and mercy in place of judgement. They’re not afraid to speak what they know is right. And they do this in confidence, knowing that they’re enough and that they’re created beautifully in the image of God. And these people move through their communities with an intentional eye to those in need, to those places where they can show up and make things better. Sound like someone you want to spend time around? How about just trying to be this person yourself?

The truth is that these character traits aren’t discovered or exhibited or practiced just around other people. You can learn to embody these traits when you’re alone. In fact, we’d even say that you probably won’t display these traits to others if you don’t embody them in your most solitary times. If you can’t have a real conversation with yourself (and God), if you’re not confident in your identity as someone who is loved and enough as you are, and if you can’t choose to do intentional but hard things on your own time, then these traits won’t suddenly manifest themselves in the midst of other people. 

We’re fighting to change our communities and the world.

Once you’ve worked on yourself, step out of your comfort zone and work to change your community. Selflessness is something that appeals to others, and functionally going out and being engaged in your community will allow you to cross paths with many, many people. You’re looking for a community with values, a community of people who build each other up not in expectation of something in return, but out of love. 

The people leaning into this value of selfless love are usually the most interesting and compassionate and healed people around you. They care about others. They have the ability to see people not as the world labels them, but instead through a lens of empathy. These are people who live out meaning. These people are at the center of their social spheres, not typically grasping for connection, but setting the tone for how the community around them connects. 

A deep sense of purpose and a desire to invest in others is an antidote to loneliness--it means you’re focusing less on yourself and what you expect and desire to receive from others, and more on the people around you and what you can give to them. If loneliness is a perceived lack of connection, then changing your mindset to be deeply invested in community and even greatly impacting the world helps you to forge connections with people from all walks of life. 

As a reminder, selflessness and investing in others doesn’t replace the need for people to invest in and love you. You’re a human and you’ll always need and deserve that from your family and friends. 

Sometimes, unfortunately, the more radically you break out of the world’s expectations of how you should act and who you should be, the harder it will become to relate to others who haven’t broken out of those expectations. But when you reorient to love those around you as opposed to always thinking about how to receive from others, you’ll end up finding people who choose to do the same, people who will love you selflessly as well. We hope you’ll find those people, or that they’ll find you. 

Branden S. Polk