Loneliness is a health risk. Not just not being connected with family and friends – because someone can be connected with family and friends and still be lonely – but not being connected in a way that is meaningful. Loneliness contributes to everything from dementia to inflammation; high blood pressure to stroke. Its affects are similar to smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. Lonely people are less likely to seek help that could affect physiological and mental change. Loneliness is increasing every year.
My readers will know my religion is exercise – I want everyone to experience the transformational power of exercise and great nutrition. but people who are lonely are less likely to find the willpower to exercise… even though exercise is an anti-depressant, and in fact any person of any mental state will tell you they feel better after exercise, but the idea of putting sneakers on and walking out the door to get the exercise going on is just very, very hard. I am learning to recognize exercise may not be the antecedent, but the consequence of a change of mental state.
I have been an active member at a lot of churches, I have belonged to a lot of social groups, from athletic to entrepreneurial, I have been part of a lot of educational environments both live an on-line. In every one of these circles, over many decades, I strapped my ankles and my wrists to the Rack and cranked the wheel, stretching every sinew of my soul, aching for connection; understanding; value.
In these circles, I have discovered, the overarching theme is everyone seems to proceeded as if everyone is ok. The level of instinctive empathy, especially on the part of a leader, seems stunted to me…. And shamefully stunted in some cases.
I want you to know, many of your followers, your students, your congregation, your mentees are fading away from loneliness, desperate to be part of the picture you are painting. You don’t know why they are lonely, but you need to know it’s your task to alleviate it.
I want you to know, loneliness is everyone’s problem. Just like we learned to speak English in language arts, math in geometry, prisms in art, we are called to learn to communicate connection. You might look at someone who needs emotional support and assume they just need a stronger medication, but really they just need stronger meaningful relationships.
I want you to know, people you are walking past in the supermarket parking lot, or you are standing 6-feet away from in the drug store, or you are noticing on the front porch of your apartment complex, or who are sitting in the pew of your church, or chair in your classroom, or are peering in your zoom meeting are drowning in loneliness desperate for breath that you can provide.
Maybe you didn’t know it’s your responsibility to grow empathy; cultivate words that sprout worth and value; propagate patience for outliers, and welcome their wisdom; till your micro-expressions to be those of acceptance.
I’m just saying this in case you didn’t know.