One is the Loneliest Number…

On our first episode of Land the Plane podcast, we talked about the fact that life is just tough. One thought that came up is that people feel alone during those tough times. But is there more to it than feeling lonely? Or are we in fact truly suffering FROM loneliness.

Over the last few years, I’ve noted a way of thinking that I believe is responsible for a large part of the hardships we struggle with day after day. Summed up, that way of thinking is: “I’ve got this.” On the surface, that phrase sounds noble enough. In fact, it’s almost the American way. Quips like “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps”, “Rely on yourself”, “YOU can do it” have all impacted where we place the burden of whether or not we succeed. In essence, if we succeed, we have ourselves to congratulate. But, who does that mean we are to blame for failure? If we are honest, it means we have only ourselves to blame.

Sure, many folks are awesome at seemingly placing blame on everything and everyone, but I really think at the end of the day the VAST majority of people lay that blame directly upon themselves. Otherwise, they’d have to place some of the recognition for their success on others as well.

And herein lies the trap. You see, if we are all about this idea of “self-reliance”, then when things get tough, are we going to reach out to others for help, or are we more likely to keep struggling by ourselves thinking, “If I just try harder, work longer, do something a little differently, then I can do this….” After-all, if our culture has taught us that success is all about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” then what are people going to think if we admit not being able to succeed on our own?

Usually, we equate this type of “success/failure” thinking to our jobs, education, or similar ventures. But, what if we expand our range of topics? If we are overly “self-reliant” and won’t ask for help, then what are the results when we are talking about success / failure in marriage? What about in being a good parent? Struggling with sin? Addiction? Fear? How much MORE likely is it that we will “go-it-alone” when it pertains to very personal areas of our lives like these?

When we approach struggles with this attitude, we end up in a very dark place. Let me explain. Imagine that you are stranded on a deserted island with no hope of leaving. You had NO ONE. For the rest of your life, you would have no human contact. Imagine how you would feel imprisoned on that island. Stranded. Alone. Hopeless.

Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away found himself in such a situation. And do you remember what he ended up doing? He needed human contact in such a terrible way that he gave human personality to a volleyball, which he aptly named “Wilson.” We know this type of loneliness would drive us all to near-crazy thoughts and a hopeless existence.

Most of us would never desire to be stranded on a deserted island; But, are we doing something so much different when we choose to isolate ourselves in the midst of our struggles? Is it hard to imagine that struggling against hardships in life by ourselves leads to the same types of feelings? Battling on when we just can’t win, continuing to fight alone against those things we just can’t seem to conquer? Sounds like being stranded alone to me.

Thankfully, it does NOT have to be this way. I believe we can all agree that we both NEED and FLOURISH BEST when we are in close relationships with others. Thoughts about the negative effects of loneliness are virtually universal:

“Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.” Anne Hathaway

Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found.Claire Danes

We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.Albert Schweitzer

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.Mother Teresa

Even in the story of creation, we discover the one thing that GOD Himself stated was “not good” about what He had just brought forth: “Then the LORD GOD said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone….'” [Genesis 2:18]

Like we say in our podcast, it’s time to Land the Plane. The point is: We must invite others into our struggles. Though it may be one of the most difficult things to do, it will undoubtedly become the most rewarding. When we open the door to allow others to struggle with us, we become stronger in our fight. Check out what one of the most successful kings to ever live said:

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” King Solomon [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12]

The arguments you’ll play out in your heart against this kind of thinking are so very loud, but so very wrong. “What if they laugh at me? What if they leave me? What if they look down on me? What kind of Christian would do this?”

I’ve asked myself every one of those questions. But time after time, when I refuse to listen to those lies, and instead believe that “with confession [of my struggles, my own needs] comes healing [in real community]”, then I am able with help to overcome the struggles life is hurling at me.

“Doing it alone” may seem most noble, but doing so gives your secret struggle so much more power. Please take the steps necessary today to invite someone to struggle with you.

“Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” ~ Paul Tournier

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