We all have a longing to belong. It is part of God’s design. Living in community Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), He created a communal being. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God considered His creation of Adam incomplete without a suitable companion.
We may all have a longing to belong, but recent statistics show that many of us are living lives with feelings quite opposite to those of belonging.
Recent Loneliness Statistics
In May, 2018, global health service company Cigna conducted a survey of over 20,000 Americans aged 18 and older. Below are some of their findings:
- 46% felt alone either sometimes or always
- 47% felt left out
- 27% rarely or never felt as though there are people who really understand them
- 43% felt that their relationships are not meaningful
- 43% felt isolated from others
- 20% rarely or never felt close to people
- 18% did not feel like there are people they can talk to
- Only 53% have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
Then again in 2020, Cigna performed another loneliness survey, this time concentrating on loneliness and the workplace. While this survey had a different focus, one glaring statistic appeared in both. According to the 2020 survey, three in five Americans (61%) report that they are lonely. The feeling of loneliness, up 15% in two years!
5 Reasons We Feel Isolated
So, what (beside COVID) causes so many to feel isolated?
1. Increased Mobility
The church I attended for several years was full of young women who had relocated to the area due to a job move (whether their husband’s or their own).
Over and over again when talking with them, I heard accounts of relationships left behind and the difficulties of starting over. Sure, in today’s digital world, the former relationships can be maintained but that requires time and effort – time and effort needed for making new friends.
2. Social Media
Even though the big idea behind social media is, well… SOCIAL, social media is a great contributor to loneliness. Channels such as Facebook and Instagram are full of highlight reels. Living through others as we scroll the feed, we find ourselves constantly comparing our everyday reality to someone’s manufactured ideal.
Additionally, social media leads us to a false sense of friendship. With tons of “friends” on our friend’s list, we develop no deep relationship nor are we creating any shared memories. Sadly, social media is an easy answer to our human vulnerabilities offering the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship
3. Season of Life Realities
No matter the life season (college student, young wife, momma with children at home, empty nester), there are distractions and obligations that come with the territory. School assignments, work commitments, childcare and carpooling, health issues and more can make it difficult to put forth the needed time and effort required for forging and maintaining friendships.
4. Mistaking Fellowship for Friendship
Just as social media can be mistaken for true friendship, so can fellowship. Fellowship and friendship are not the same thing. Used mostly in church circles, fellowship defines a special sense of companionship and love among believers based on their unity in Christ.
5. Adopting a Cultural View
According to Merriam Webster, friendship1 is the state of being attached to another by affection or esteem. Culturally, friendship is viewed as a relationship that has “me” at the center and revolves around our emotions. Lacking depth of purpose, it is no wonder so many feel that no one understands them and their relationships are not meaningful.
Have you ever met someone for the very first time and felt as if you had known them all your life?
This is the idea behind the Hebrew word for friendship, chaverut. The root, chaver, means “to connect.” It carries the idea of feeling instantly connected to another, just as though spirits are united.
I love Jonathan Holmes’ definition of biblical friendship taken from his book, The Company We Keep.
“Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue him and his kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability. Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father. It is indispensable to the work of the gospel in the earth, and an essential element of what God created us for.”Jonathan Holmes, The Company We Keep
Based on the Hebrew word, chaver, and Jonathan Holmes’ definition of biblical friendship, how do your friendships measure up?
- Are there things that hamper the development and care of your friendships? If so, what are they (frequent geographic relocations, social media, season of life realities, mistaken or unclear definition of friendship)?
- What do your friendships look like?
- How are you pursuing and maintaining your established friendships?
- What is the goal of your friendships?
- Who is at the center of your friendships?
Perhaps it’s time we reassess our friendships and break the cycle of loneliness and isolation.
1 “Friend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/friend. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.
A 4-part video series exploring friendship from a biblical perspective. Sessions include: A Longing to Belong, The Circles of Friendship, Friendship Traits and Threats, and Forging and Maintaining Existing Friendships. Each brief session is followed by prompts for a time of self-reflection.
PDF worksheets and a bonus video are also included.
Available through Gumroad – $14.99