Chances are you’re lonely.
A study found that a staggering 47 percent of Americans are feeling lonely, left out, and lacking meaningful connections with others. This is true for all ages—from teenagers to older adults. Even before COVID-19, experts were concerned about the loneliness epidemic. A global pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.
So, how do you know if you’re lonely? It’s difficult because it’s personally answered. I could be in a crowd of people and feel lonely still. It’s subjective. And when do we need to be concerned? At what point does it affect our health?
I read once that loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. That means you’re better off a chain-smoking sumo wrestler than Beyonce with no friends. THAT IS CRAZY!!
Here is the real reason why it’s become an epidemic. We believe lies. Here’s one of the worst ones that will utterly sink your life: This is as good as it gets.
We often fear that this right here, right where you are, right how you are is as good as it gets. So we settle.
I think we keep accepting less than real friendships because we don’t know how to pick out good ones, or we’ve never experienced great ones, so we have no idea it’s even out there. Maybe we believe that we aren’t good enough to be loved by others. That if they really knew us, they wouldn’t like us. These temporary, surface-level friends may be all we have seen and known. So we believe having friends just to have fun with is real friendship.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
I’ve struggled with loneliness personally. I mean, I know I’m loved by so many. That if I were to die, there would be a lot of people at my funeral, saying how l served them, loved them, or taught them. But if I’m honest, I want more than a crowd of people approving of me from a distance. I deeply desire people in my life that are MY people. People I can depend on whether or not I performed at all. If I was funny or not. If I was good at my job or not. People who knew me, were for me, and that I could depend on.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17
I want TRUE friends. I’m guessing you do too. And I’m here to tell you they are out there.
There is friendship out there where you can feel safe and known and pushed to be the best version of yourself. That when you screw up, you are forgiven, and it’s forgotten. That time is given to build into that friendship regularly. I know because I found a few of the best.
But it hasn’t always been the case.
I’ve been burned by accepting people into my life that turned out were AWFUL friends. I think I let them in because I didn’t want anyone to feel the loneliness that I had felt. So I included them in events, parties, my home, and eventually my life. In time, they showed their true colors, and I got hurt.
If you have experienced the pain of loving someone, trusting them, and being shocked at how poor a friend they truly are, there are two choices in how to react:
- We can wall up and protect ourselves from feeling that hurt again. (I really don’t advise this. Your soul is not designed to do that.)
- Or we can heal, forgive, and try to make better choices in friends next time.
We can choose to not let other people dictate our future happiness.
I chose the 2nd option.
So what are the characteristics of a good friend? How can they be picked out?
The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26
I’m not saying a person has to be perfect, but if after you take this friendship test, you find out they would be a good friend, then hang on to them. Protect your health and well-being by fighting feeling lonely. Fight to not be among those suffering in the loneliness epidemic. Invest in that friendship. Put the time in your calendar weekly and text them often.
Weather the arguments or disagreements. You are going to screw up. Apologize often and sincerely. Try your hardest to be sure that if they came across this article and took the test about if you are a good friend, that they would answer yes. Good friends are hard to find, and they are wondering if you are going to be a good friend as well.
Free Friendship Test
Click here for a 3-minute friendship test that will help you decide if the person in your life has the qualities of a good friend or bad.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
Feeling Lonely? Get Help With A 3-Min Friendship Test
What strikes you most about this article? Why that? (Noticing what gets your attention can be the beginning of hearing from God. Lean into it, and see where it goes.)
How do you feel about the state of your friendships? List three words to describe the quality of relationships in your life right now.
Evaluating our friendships can be a tender topic. We can feel like a failure or worry that it’s our fault (and that’s possible.) But wherever the breakdown lies, shame is not from God. Whatever a-ha’s you have while reading this, listen for what God might be saying to you about it. His voice will sound like hope, redemption, and acceptance. Share with a friend what you think He might have to say to you.
What’s one next step you can take away from this article to improve your friendships? Forward this article to someone else you trust, tell them your plan, and ask them to help hold you to it.
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