Here’s the thing about loneliness—you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely.
You can have thousands of Facebook friends and Instagram followers, and be in the company of people constantly but still not feel emotionally close or connected to anyone. That’s how people can “party” constantly and still feel lonely.
There are so many ways to connect to others through social media. But people are reporting feeling more lonely than ever. How is this possible?
We have an innate need to connect with others on a human level. Yes, social media can help us keep connected with loved ones. But it can also help establish a fantasy where we put our best on display for others to see, and avoid face-to-face relationships where people can see our humanity, with all our faults and failures. It can also make others’ lives look more glamorous and enviable in comparison to our own.
Not the real deal.
Social media gives us the opportunity to build superficial “relationships” with acquaintances, or “friends,” by the boatload. But it can actually inhibit us from connecting on a deeper level with the people we have the greatest opportunity to find real depth with.
Studies actually show that addictions to social media sites actually trigger people to isolate themselves.
Social media should be one small aspect of your social life. If the sites you’re visiting aren’t improving your relationships or your quality of life, it’s time to make some changes.
Social media can even become an escape from face-time with family, children, and friends. Perhaps the real lure of social media relationships is to avoid having to build close relationships in-person and day-to-day. After all, superficial relationships don’t face the challenges that real relationships do.
It’s easier to “friend” someone on Facebook than to actually build a friendship, mentor others, or touch lives, and be touched as we do so.
Relationships require work. And that can be intimidating.
We risk rejection. Disclosure can be risky, and it’s usually easier not to take the chance. Fears of all kinds can keep us from sharing our hearts with others or caring and deeply trusting anyone. The fear of not connecting or being rejected by someone can cause us to put up walls, or worse yet, be competitive to prove our worthiness.
But building real, valuable relationships can only happen in a non-competitive atmosphere, where no one is trying to prove they’re worthy of love or have something to offer. Competition for acceptance can undermine honesty, trust, and loyalty—the stuff that all healthy, solid, and satisfying relationships must have to grow. Competitive relationships just aren’t satisfying. But yet we compete.
We’ve lost our way!
God created us and only He knows what will fulfill each of us and bring lasting peace and happiness to our lives. But we’ve ignored His design for life and lost our way in this world. Today, we have so many breakdowns in relationships that it’s no wonder so many people are unhappy with life.
We were created for relationship.
This just seems to be the time of year when it’s most evident that people all around us are missing out on the very relationships God intended each of us to have.
So many people today are lonely because they lack the mentorship and friendships that make this world navigable. These relationships give us people to celebrate life with, and people to support us in the hard times.
It IS possible to live life the way God Our Creator intended it to be lived and have the happy, healthy relationships He intended us to have.
We just need to turn our hearts to His Word and regain the “Titus Tradition” of the spiritually older women teaching the younger how to live life and love their husbands and their families (Titus 2:3-5). This holds true for men as well.
Women and men both need mentors.
God gave us incredible examples of mentorship in the Bible. Paul mentored Timothy as a son in the faith and helped him become his best, reaching his potential in Christ. Paul had to be willing to invest into Timothy, and Timothy had to be willing to receive instruction from Paul. And, instead of competing with his spiritual elder, Timothy submitted his heart to be trained by Paul. He didn’t resent Paul’s correction, but welcomed it with respect, acknowledging God’s plan to train him toward his destiny.
Ruth told Naomi that she would follow her and that whatever she chose, she would choose also. She said,
Wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Both Ruth and Timothy found God’s blessing and provision because they were both loyal to their mentors and were willing to serve beyond what most people would do—they went beyond the call. It wasn’t just about what they could each get for themselves. And their mentors wanted the best for them.
Paul exhibited honest leadership in his relationship with Timothy, and Timothy’s respect toward Paul earned him a place to be mentored. Paul’s mentorship of Timothy helped to carry the gospel further than Paul could reach by himself. Both were the benefactors of a healthy relationship.
You don’t have to do life alone.
Like Timothy and Ruth, we were never intended to carry the difficulties of life alone. There are those who have gone before us (mentors), and those who are walking the same path we are walking (friends). We need them both in order to become our best and enjoy the journey.
Sure, there are challenges to overcome in nearly every relationship. But if we choose our friends and mentors wisely, and make the commitment to be loyal, honest, trustworthy, grateful, and faithful, God can bless our lives with these relationships, and we can enjoy the journey together.
You can make real friends, laugh heartily, learn truth together, live whole, and love freely. When you come into God’s Kingdom, you come into a family—the family of God. This transformation should impact every relationship in your life. You can learn how to walk in the grace and empowerment that is yours in your marriage, family, home, friendships, and life.
God has answers for your connections to people.
Ultimately, our greatest joys come from relationships with those we love. There is an anointing from God to enjoy relationships. And you can have tremendous joy as you are empowered to be the friend, wife, husband, father, mother, mentor, and minister that God has called you to be.
Five Quick Tips to Build Healthy Relationships
1. Accept God’s love for you.
Grow in self-acceptance because you know He loves and accepts you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him.
2. Let God be the master architect in your life.
Let Him direct you to mentors and friends that can help you grow and change.
3. Be willing to submit your heart.
Be open to being trained and sharpened by others in a loyal, committed exchange, accepting that God will ask you to invest in and befriend others as you have been mentored.
4. Be friendly.
Remember, the Bible tells us that to have friends we must be friendly. Competitive jealousy, controlling behaviors, bad attitudes, gossip, pettiness, and self-centered demands are relationship killers.
5. Be found faithful.
When you blow it, as we all inevitably will at some point, forgiveness and humility are the glue that will hold the relationship together. Invest in people God’s way. Free yourself from wrong expectations and hurtful words and actions.