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Have You Set Yourself Up for Loneliness?

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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November 10, 2014

Loneliness_Lonely_man
Image by Arief Rahman Saan (Ezagren)

Sometimes the Discomfort of Loneliness is Self-Induced

 
Loneliness is an indicator just like hunger and thirst. When we are hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we drink. Unfortunately, while loneliness is also begging to be quenched we sometimes fail to either take appropriate action or are oblivious to the obstacles that are preventing us from drawing into our lives the kind of meaningful friendships with others that we desire.

The Oblivious Cleaner

We recently had a cleaner come over to our place to help us clean the house. This was just a try out and we wanted to see how well she would do.

She didn’t do a good job of mopping the floor. My wife mopped it again after she left.

She moved a table to clean the floor but didn’t put the table back to it’s original spot. The lamp that she had temporarily put on the floor never was returned to the table.

She removed a chair I had a power extension cord on not realizing that doing so would cause the aquarium heater to come out of the aquarium.

Things that were removed from the plastic shelves in the bathroom were not all returned.

These are some of the things we discovered once she was gone. It’s a little sad that she is oblivious to her performance as not only are we unlikely to have her return but the friend whose home she has been cleaning for a while is seriously thinking of employing someone else.

Like the cleaner many people who continually experience loneliness are oblivious to the liabilities in their lives that are allowing the status quo to continue.

Loneliness: My Own Story

I have at times felt a lingering sense of loneliness in my life. Times when I just didn’t seem to fit in. Feeling as though my friendship wasn’t valued.

I had made efforts to connect with others but many times the results ranged from underwhelming to depressing.

In hindsight, here are some of the barriers that prevented me from banishing loneliness outright. Note what things we have in common and consider whether you need to change in these areas.

Clingy Behavior

When I was a young man I was completely in love with a certain church I went to. However, there was a particular phase I went through where I felt the brunt of loneliness and at the time it seemed inescapable.

I attended many church events but lacked true friends. While people were friendly in group situations it was rare for a friend to invite me out to see a movie, eat out or go somewhere together.

I regret not having checked out other churches and social groups. I shouldn’t have been so clingy to a place or to a group of people. Being clingy may end up entrenching loneliness.

The story of the ugly duckling has a pertinent message. While you may be overlooked by one group of people there’s another group who will warmly welcome you and treat you as special. Be mindful of the opportunity cost.

Docile-Mindedness

I was the kind of person who would stay in a situation I wasn’t happy with. I allowed anybody to fill the friendship slots of my life. I found it difficult to assess friendships and almost impossible to disengage from them. I just sat in the midst of my friends feeling lonely.

You need to assess your friendships especially if you feel they’re not going well.

I abide by the Great Steward Principle. We have a certain amount of friendship slots in our lives for which we are responsible for. These slots are meant to be teflon-coated, not filled with superglue. Choose your friends wisely and let go of those friends who are loitering in a slot they obviously don’t care to be in. By allowing these slots to be filled with people like this we may be guilty of inhibiting good friends from entering our lives.

Social Skills

I read somewhere that people with disabilities may be lacking in the social skills department in some way.

I had a bad stammer during my youth and I think it may have been partially responsible for stunting my social growth.

If you feel your social skills are in need of improvement one of the best ways I know of to improve them is to host your own social events and take lots of initiative in your friendship endeavors.

Limited Social Boundaries

For many years I befriended co-workers or the occasional person I met outside work. Many of these people really didn’t have that much in common with me and my friendships were circumstantial and shallow at best. They were friendships that relied on my initiative to survive.

To get the best possible friendship results you need to place yourself smack dab in a stream of humanity and draw to yourself those you have rapport with. You are like a magnet and the people responding well to you the ion filings.

It’s important to realize that the friendship path you are on may not have any good friends showing up in the foreseable future. This is especially so if you only know a very limited amount of people. I discovered that good friends could be found if I jumped over to an adjacent path. By that I simply mean befriending new people and going to new social events.

Don’t settle for underwhelming. Check out your social options. You might be pleasantly surprised or even excited at the friendships you find.

The Scale of Your Initiative

Later in my life before Project Fellowship I began to show initiative towards others more and more. This mostly consisted of inviting co-workers over to my place for get-togethers. Despite my efforts the results were often not to my satisfaction.

In hindsight, my initiative just wasn’t on a scale that would get the results I desired. I think many people have this same problem.

I was showing initiative to too few people and only people I knew. There’s a good chance that having an active friendlist list of 15 people or less who just happened to wander into your life is not going to work out for you.

I wasn’t carefully directing my initiative either. If you want to have a decent circle of friends you’ve got to be on the move. For example, if certain friends are proving unresponsive, indifferent or chronically passive to a degree you’re unhappy with remove them from your active friendship list and befriend others. Attend other social events to do so if need be. Whatever you do, don’t sound out those in your circle, get discouraged and give up. It’s important to keep befriending people till you have the group of friends you desire.

One of the reasons why we can’t seem to have a breakthrough in friendships is because we are continually sowing on barren ground. So find people who constitute fertile ground and start sowing! People who are responsive, share common ground with you, enjoy your company and exhibit the kind of qualities you’re after in a friend.

During Project Fellowship my initiative grew by leaps and bounds. I realized that in the past I only had two initiative gears. Now I have a visceral sense of gears one to ten. I can crank the gears up to ten to get the results I want now anytime I like.

Conclusion on Loneliness

Loneliness is optional. Consider in what ways you may be responsible for it’s presence in your life. Start by dwelling on the question, “How am I responsible for my friendship situation?”

Dont be clingy or docile-minded. Assess your friendships and disengage from those that aren’t right for you.

If you’re social skills are lacking place yourself in a situation where they will automatically improve like hosting your own events and taking your initiative up with others to a whole new level.

Be socially active and gravitate towards the best friendships you find. You may have found yourself disatisfied with your friendships because you haven’t given yourself enough options.
 

Do you have anything to add on the subject of loneliness?

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