After a tiring week at work, I wanted nothing more than to relax at home alone, but a gnawing anxiety crept through my heart on the bus ride home. I’m calling it lonelyphobia.
There are all sorts of causes for lonelyphobia and in my case, I felt “lame” for not wanting to socialize. I felt like a loser for staying home on Friday night and feared that I actually didn’t want to be alone, but was simply too “lazy” to seek company. Thankfully I could share these feelings with my sister and she said that barring the miraculous appearance of a girlfriend I should buy a dog.
I think most dogs are excellent emotional capacitors. You lavish them with affection and when you’re down they can return it to you in full measure. Their cute faces act like mirrors of the soul, reflecting back to their caretakers the feelings they have been nurtured with. Unlike humans, you can almost be sure that the delight you express towards a dog will be happily reciprocated without making the relationship confusing or awkward.
Yet with all its joys, the dog-man relationship falls short of human companionship. My friend Will recently noted that loneliness wasn’t so much, “a lack of society, but a lack of like-minded society–people who you can share your heart and interests with.” His thoughts echo the Scriptures:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
I think we often mistake socializing for companionship. How often have you been to a gathering where you made smalltalk, but never connected with anyone? Have you had lunch with a friend, but felt miles apart in conversation? Although “it is not good for a man to be alone“, it seems better for a man to know he is alone than to confuse superficial relationships with true companionship. There’s no point getting demoralized over not socializing enough, but it seems good to be “anxious” to find loyal friends.
Do you have true companionship?
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I think lonelyphobia is particularly common among goal-oriented people. We feel frustrated if we hang out at the expense of making progress on our goals, but we feel guilty if we don’t socialize because we are pursuing our goals. The goal could be as simple as doing well on an exam or as complex as creating a company, but whatever it may be, we crave companions who share the same mission (by the way, please leave a comment if you care about technology entrepreneurship for the gospel!).
As I wrestled through writing this post, I realized that although I could suggest visiting meetups around common interests, attending conferences or joining a small group, I didn’t really have any answers. The only hope I have is God. If he has called you or me to a mission, there’s probably going to be plenty of loneliness (and joy) along the way.
God sent Paul to preach the gospel and he was deserted by his ministry team. Elijah’s passion for God made him the target of an assassination so that he fled into the wilderness alone to save his life. Jesus knew his disciples would all leave him when he faced his deathly mission to save the world by sacrificing his own life. In every instance the only hope they had was that God remained with them. No wonder the Scriptures ring with refrains of:
- I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, Joshua 1:5)
- I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
- Be strong and courageous, for I am with you (1 Chronicles 28:20, Joshua 1:9)
So if you feel lonelyphobia, trust in God! Don’t feel guilty over not socializing (that’s my merit side saying I don’t deserve friends if I don’t hang out…). Don’t feel lazy self-pity over having no true companions (they are a grace we should ask God for and take responsibility for loving). Buy a dog, attend a meetup, invite a friend to dinner, but always remember that God is with you and that he alone can fully satisfy your desires for companionship, intimacy, and adventure.
Note: This post was really hard to write because the topic felt way too big. I didn’t get to address dating, fellowship, leadership, the etymology of companion (breadfellow), and so much more. If you’d like to add more the conversation, please leave a comment!