An Epidemic of Loneliness, Part Three

This week, Dan Allender and Becky Allender conclude our series on loneliness by wrestling with how we can thoughtfully engage the lonely parts of our own hearts and the hearts of others. They start by revisiting some of the themes of this series: the health-related issues and increased stress of loneliness, and the tendency to distract ourselves rather than engage the painful realities of our hearts—what Dan calls a “conspiracy to avoid loneliness.”

Dan: “There is an inevitable ache that will be there even in the presence of lovely, good people who really do know you and care for you. Loneliness is inevitable.”

Becky: “We have lonely young parts that are quite familiar with being lonely as children. That resides in us—it’s familiar.”

How do we tend to loneliness without attempting to erase it or pretend it doesn’t exist? As with all of the core issues of what it means to be human, we can start by looking at our family of origin stories. It is a heartbreaking dilemma: family is the place our hearts are most meant to be delighted in and soothed, and yet it is often the place where that is most lacking. Becky and Dan share about how they both experienced deep loneliness as children and did not always feel that it was safe to reach out for someone to help them engage it. They learned to adapt and manage loneliness on their own; they learned that they should not have to ask for help.

We learned to be able to adapt well to not engaging.

Dan: “It feels like shame. I feel ashamed to admit that I am lonely.”

As Scripture tells us, it is the truth that sets us free. The courage to name our loneliness and invite others to engage it with us is the beginning of what it means to foster connection and restoration in our most lonely places. We turn our faces to each other, owning our own condition and witnessing the condition of others.

Dan: “There’s something about confession that I think is the first core to really engaging loneliness. […] Can I name and not blame?”

Becky shares how this act of naming the truth has deepened her compassion for herself and her kindness for her own story, and it has allowed her to more kind to others in the midst of loneliness.

Dan: “If we have a heart to tend for the lonely parts of our own heart, then we often have at least some level of regard and kindness for the lonely parts of other people’s hearts.”