Mother Teresa believed loneliness was the greatest poverty,
especially in Western culture. In Genesis 2:18 God said, "It is not
good that man should be alone." John Milton wrote that "Loneliness
is the first thing which God named, not good."
Today there are far more ways to connect with people than we can
begin to understand. The more we try to connect, the more the
disease of loneliness seems to spread. One website devoted to
loneliness has registered millions of visitors. Blogs where people
pour their hearts and souls into cyberspace are expanding
exponentially. Large numbers of lonely people turn to the Internet
for companionship. People are desperate to make a connection with
Isolation and disconnection can exist even within the most
intimate of relationships. Not long ago, we were with friends when
one of them referred to a particular couple by saying, "Oh, they
are a L.A.T. couple." We had never heard the phrase before and
asked for an explanation. It seems L.A.T. stands for "Living Alone
When I relayed how sad this term sounded to another friend at a
large gathering a few weeks later, her face clouded and she said,
"But…that's howIfeel." I was shocked because this was a woman with
an active faith life, children, grandchildren, a husband and a
beautiful home. With such abundance, I wondered how she could
possibly feel lonely.
Perhaps this state was what Germaine Greer meant by saying,
"Loneliness is never crueler than when it is felt in close
proximity with someone who has ceased to communicate."
Even Christ was not immune to the pain of loneliness. His
closest companions abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. Part
of the agony of the cross was his overwhelming feeling of
abandonment, even by God.
Loneliness is the most ancient invisible disease. Hidden in our
hearts, it can eat away at any age. It can strike children who are
sometimes left out at school. Husbands and wives have agendas so
full they must schedule times to be with each other. Military
couples are split apart by war. The elderly sometimes live in
isolation. Maybe L.A.T. should stand for all who find themselves
"Living Alone Today," whatever the circumstances.
The lack of true companionship creates a hunger nothing else can
fill. St. Augustine's famous words, "Our hearts are restless, Lord,
until we rest in you," speak to the deepest disconnection we can
experience. In loneliness, we turn inward. The focus is on what is
missing. A gnawing scarcity of warmth and light absorbs energy.
Many writers, including Henri Nouwen, have noted the difference
between loneliness and solitude. With our hearts firmly anchored in
Christ, loneliness becomes solitude. In the richness of solitude,
we can experience gratitude for the abundance in our lives. Our
hearts are renewed, our energy is replenished and we are able to
look outward to the needs of others.