On Loneliness and Love

Mother Teresa once said, in her book, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa,

“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. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/139677-the-greatest-disease-in-the-west-today-is-not-tb)

And I totally agree with her. I am not discounting the pain and suffering felt by people afflicted with physical ailments or who are starving for food. However, if you are surrounded by a group of people who love and care about you during that period of suffering, you will most likely come out of the situation much stronger and be able to endure anything better, than if you have no one.  Also, if everything else is going fairly well for you, but you have no one with whom to share these accomplishments and triumphs, then you may begin to think life is pointless.

Loneliness and the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for are the worst situations any human being or even animal can ever have to endure. This is because loneliness and feeling unloved, uncared for, and unwanted cut to the very depths of one’s soul. Here’s how we can combat these feelings if we feel them ourselves, and how we can help others who feel that way:

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

  1. Do something kind for someone else.—Often when I feel lonely or rejected, the best thing for me to do is to go out and do something kind for someone else. Usually, not as a means to an end, but as a kind of “side-effect” to our good deeds, when we do something kind for someone else, and they appreciate us in return (and sometimes, even when they don’t but you know in your heart you did right by them), we feel more connected to the recipient of our kindness. We open doors for people to want to get to know us better.
  2. See rejection, not as a personal failure on your part, but a chance to learn from mistakes and others.— For instance, when I was rejected for the chance to work at that bookstore, I learned quickly that this wasn’t where God wanted me.  Though I was discouraged for a long time because many people in my life had rejected me for even a friendship and found me difficult to get along with, God taught me through those painful experiences that a.) He was there for me and b.) To be more compassionate and loving to others who may also feel rejected and unloved by others (or even me).
  3. Get involved in your community, or even online.–To combat loneliness, do not become a hermit 24/7. Engage with others, and get involved in getting to know people around you. This could be the neighbors you live with, people who live in or near where you live in the greater community,  people at the religious institution where you worship,  or even people you interact daily with at your job, or where you most frequent outside your house.  Even though it’s not exactly the same, you can also get involved in online communities and form online friendships there.  It may be difficult to get initially involved.  For instance, when I switched church communities last year, I didn’t know many people there and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. However, as time went on, I started to feel more at home and found that this was a good change for me. So, don’ t give up on a new community just because you feel uncomfortable or anxious at first.

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

  1.  Never give up on them.–Some people are difficult to handle. I get it. However, these same people may be reacting out of fear and anger at the larger society around them that has callously rejected them for something they can’t control such as their ethnicity, disability, or any other human identifier.  Understand that such people actually need extra love, not less of it.  I know sometimes investing in those people gets exhausting and tiring, but if you strive never to give up on those who hurt the most, most people will eventually see you as a friend and confidante, as opposed to an enemy.
  2. Intentionally reach out and care for them.–At work, sometimes I give encouraging notes to people who may need them. This is partly so that the people I work with will know that they are not alone and that someone out there gives a care and appreciates what positive things they have done. We should apply the same principle to those around us who feel lonely or rejected.  If they need to vent, listen with validation and compassion. You don’t need to “fix” their problems, but just listening to them can go a long way into showing them love and care. If the lonely person in your life needs help with something, offer to help whenever possible.  Be there for them, both in their trials and their triumphs. Be a friend.
  3. Always strive to be kind to them.--Be kind in your interactions with them by making them feel valuable and less alone.  If you fail to do this, be quick to apologize and make amends.  Include them in your interactions with others whenever appropriate.  Encourage them to cultivate the good personality traits that you find in that person or persons.  Try to prefer them over yourself.

There are many people in our lives who may feel lonely or unloved. Some of them are apparent to us, like someone who always sits alone at lunch.  However, some of them may seem to be surrounded by many people, but they feel empty inside and only have superficial interactions with others.  We need to be able to reach both groups with our love and compassion. If we do, we may just start a chain reaction. My wish and hope for this world is that eventually no one on this earth would ever have to feel alone and unloved again.

The Pain of Rejection (and How to Deal)

Unloved. Unwanted. Never good enough. Have you ever felt this way? If you are human, you most certainly have for at least one time in your life. Many of you have experienced rejection many, many times, even by the ones who are or were supposed to love us the most. Personally (for I can only really 100% speak for myself), I have experienced on and off rejection since the tender age of two, by people at a daycare center.  That is why, unless I feel that a person has rejected me in some way, I will most likely never reject them because I know personally the pain of not being or feeling loved by another.

I am reading the book, Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, which deals with this very issue, and I will be referencing (and putting references to her credit where it is due) some of her ideas on how to deal with rejection, as well as some of my own. (Shameless plug: For more info on how you can get her book, please visit amazon or iTunes. They should have it there. )

Tips on how to deal with rejection (from a biblical perspective):

1.) Be genuine.—Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. The old adage, “It’s better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for someone you are not.” rings true here. People will and DO eventually find out “who you really are” no matter how hard we try to hide our true selves. It’s because God consistently cracks our masks we wear in public, so to expose the Truth of who we really are. If you are genuine, and are rejected you will be only rejected once (even though I know and acknowledge this may be really painful for most). But if you are fake and are acknowledged, your true self would be rejected twice. Once when others embrace the false self and the other time when they find out your deception and find out who you really are.

2.) See that in the rejection God may be protecting you from something even worse happening to you or may be preparing you for something better (ref to : TerKeurst, Uninvited, 133-34)

This actually happened to me while I was searching for my current job. I had an interview at a place where I really wanted to work, but unfortunately I found out quickly that I really wasn’t a good fit for the company or the place. I was a bit disappointed and thought I wouldn’t find a good job, even though I did well at my previous job.  However, one day I called my current job’s place to see if there was an update on the status of my resume and they called me in for an interview that very day.  God, through several people, graciously provided that job for me. And at this job, God has provided many opportunities not only to advance my career, but also to minister to many people there, both customers and employees. Had I been accepted at the other place, I may have been laid off now (the place was not that big), or fired, and had less opportunities to minister to other people.

Hard as it is, we need to see that in the rejection, God may be preparing you for something or someone better or protecting us from a bad fate, or both! We need to look to the future and not in our past failures or rejections

3. Don’t put your whole identity in the person or persons that rejected you

If the situation is a person or persons that rejected you, especially if it is someone you admire, love, or respect, this may be very difficult.  However, in order to heal from the rejection, we need to separate what the person thinks of us from who we really are. In TerKeurst’s words, we need to “stop the spiral by replacing the labels” (TerKeurst, Uninvited, 131). For instance, if your mother or father rejected you in some way, it does not mean that you are “unlovable” or a “reject” to everyone else in the world. It may feel that way sometimes, but feelings don’t always necessitate truth! Instead, for instance, you may seek the help of God or a therapist to help you believe positive qualities about yourself so that you don’t have to live in shame or fear of further rejection by other people. Also, what I have learned from my experiences with rejection, is that not everyone will like or love you, and that sometimes you cannot get others to like or love you. While it’s frustrating, it doesn’t mean that you will be rejected by everyone. Even if you somehow were, as long as you don’t reject Him, God will never reject you! You don’t have to “try” harder to get someone to like or love you. Just be yourself and continually try to improve who you already are to glorify God and become a better person, not to become popular. But haven’t we all worked harder to get liked or loved sometimes? I know, it’s difficult, because we all want to be loved and that’s a natural human desire, but don’t let rejection define you.

4.) If possible, don’t reject other people.

Audrey Hepburn, the actress, wisely stated, ” People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”  It’s understandable and may even be necessary to reject people who are abusive or a danger to your physical or mental health, so I don’t mean that. However, be careful not to reject someone just because they have a disability, are a certain race or class, religion, look a certain way, identify with a certain gender or sexuality, or don’t think the way you do. Also, never reject someone just because they’re hurting. If you don’ t know how to comfort or console them, a.) try your best  or  b.) Make sure you find someone else (i.e…a qualified professional or another person) that can.  When we reject the vulnerable, weak, or marginalized members of our society, what we are saying with our actions is that we won’t help Jesus, and when we become weak, vulnerable, or marginalized, it may be that others will remember our rejections of other like people, and in turn think we deserve to be rejected, and reject our cries for help. Not only that, but if we don’t repent (i.e…continue to reject the marginalized), we will face ultimate rejection from God Himself. This is illustrated in Matt 25:45-46, when Jesus says, ” Then he [God] will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV-emphasis mine).