Across the last few weeks, we were engaged in a series of activities “listening” to the singles. We tried to understand the wide range of people who would fit into this category. Despite several claims on the contrary, we realised how central is loneliness in the lives of single people. We also tried to look at how this loneliness can be meaningfully addressed and how life of single people could be made more enjoyable and fruitful. We also had some very positive life experiences from single people who make the best of their lives. Through it all our challenge was to make the church not only a welcoming and safe space for singles but a place where genuine companionship and active engagement is made possible. We need to affirm that one of the primary tasks of the Church is to ensure that No One is Alone.
It is a fact that despite being alone some live in a state of denial- trying to affirm that they are not alone or that loneliness is not an issue they are struggling with. It takes some time to acknowledge and accept that loneliness is affecting them. There could be different stages between denial and acceptance, and we should be sensitive to these.
Why do people face Loneliness?
Loneliness need not always be associated with being single. There are people in a multiple kaleidoscope of interwoven family ties yet strangely facing loneliness while there are also single people who do not have to deal with loneliness. We would focus for now on Loneliness and Being Single as two interconnected but not necessarily the same experience.
- Loneliness and Being Single by Choice
- Loneliness and Being Single by Bereavement
- Loneliness and Being Single through challenges in relationships.
- Loneliness through gender and social restrictions
- Loneliness through circumstances like imprisonment
- Loneliness through retirements and redefined social contacts
- Loneliness through change of jobs and job locales
- Loneliness through migration and movements into alien terrains
- Loneliness despite busy online engagements
- Loneliness through mental and physical ailments, disabilities, and vulnerabilities
- Loneliness through victimisation
- Loneliness through the stigma of social ostracization following substance abuse.
What happens in the lives of people who live in loneliness?
The impact of loneliness on people could vary. A few of them could live with some or all the following tangents in their lives.
- Loneliness and Isolation often leads to depression and mental trauma.
- Loneliness leads to negative feelings about self-worth.
- Loneliness leads to social withdrawal and friendlessness.
- Loneliness leads to exhaustion and burn outs.
- Loneliness leads to stress and psychosocial ailments.
- Loneliness leads to unhealthy trysts with the dark web.
- Loneliness leads to possibilities of substance abuse.
- Loneliness leads to anxiety and issues like concentration loss.
- Loneliness leads to a disengagement with the present.
- Loneliness leads to a what could be called “traumatic aloneness”.
- Loneliness leads to unbridled bouts of anger and resultant exclusion.
What can the church do in meaningfully ministering to people living in loneliness?
The church should recognise that the singles and people who live in loneliness need a very specialised ministry. The nuances of their requirements must be understood psychologically, scientifically, biblically, and theologically. A wholistic programme of care must be put in place.
The basic aspects the church should be aware of include,
- Ensuring that the single people feel safe, welcome, invited, included and at home.
- Ensuring creative opportunities of fellowship and companionship are offered.
- Ensuring opportunities of engagements in the life of other people in need, locally and globally.
- Ensuring meaningful and fruitful use of time, talents, and treasures so that they feel their self-dignity better.
- Ensuring self-care by affirming self-worth and the assurance of the beyond.
- Ensuring opportunities of emotional venting out through events focussing on silence, meditation and sharing
- Ensuring healthy connections are cultivated within the community and beyond the community.
- Ensuring a proper connect with nature which could be therapeutic and strengthening.
- Ensuring non-judgemental spaces of recreation and togetherness
- Ensuring opportunities of journeying together including pilgrimages
- Ensuring that hope is instilled following the narrative that difficult situations could make one more compassionate, wiser, and optimistic.
As we look into meaningful ways of being a relevant church one of the focal points would be the lonely and the single people. Much needs to be done in this very crucial area of engagement and we pray for divine wisdom to show us the way.
Psalm 68:6 affirms that “the Lord gives a household to the lonely” and this verse should reflect in the nature of the church as it should in the mission of the church.
May 1, 2023