They looked at each other, shocked, as the realization hit them both. This friend of mine—she’s lonely too.
These are two of the loveliest women I know. They are rarely alone. One has a gift for hospitality. She welcomes people, especially into her home. And her hugs are healing things. The other is people-centered. She knows you. She remembers your details, the tiny thing you told her that one time. Both will meet your needs before you ask.
These ladies . . . they reach out to others. They open their homes and their schedules. They serve. And they both feel all alone.
It seems like every day there’s another book or Bible study about women’s friendships. Why we need each other. How to invite others in. How God works in our friendships.
And it’s true. We were designed for community. Some of the ways that God shapes our lives happen only through our connections with other people.
And yet, we have never been so lonely.
I am. I have always felt odd, not normal. As if there was some class I missed along the way about how to fit in with others. In Ruth Soukup’s Fear Archetypes, I’m an Outcast. I think others won’t connect with me for long, so I push them away before they can discard me.
I want the invitations desperately, but I tend to communicate that I don’t need anyone. So they don’t ask. And even when they do, I’m such an introvert that I immediately dread actually going along.
It’ll be exhausting, my inner self whines. I’ll have to make small talk. Or worse, do group crafts. Ugh!
I know I’m not the only one. I get that others must be lonely, too. But I was as surprised as my friends to discover just how lonely they both are. And just how well they had kept that secret.
We are not the only lonely ones. And it’s time to start acknowledging that.
The mom who looks so put together online. She’s got an Instagram account with oodles of followers. Her kids earn all the grades, play all the sports, do all the church stuff. And her Stitch Fix outfits look perfect. That mom . . . she’s lonely, too.
How about the mom of littles who hasn’t slept in years and spends her days feeding and wiping and cleaning? She’s desperate for a playdate, but even when she’s there, the talk stays shallow, and she spends half the time chasing the 3-year-old down. Loneliness haunts her, too.
The mom of teens or college students is dying for a real friend. She’s consumed with the realities of new drivers, sexting, and college applications. Every decision feels like a minefield. She talks a lot about her kids’ activities, but not much about herself. She certainly knows the silence of loneliness.
And if she has a job, mom or not, the loneliness is even worse. She has so many tribes: coworkers, family, kids activities, more. But being pulled in so many directions means she can’t find true north anymore. Where does she fit? Who wants her for who she is, and not just what she does for them?
And church? Sometimes, it’s the worst of all. If she’s leading, she feels like no one sees the person she really is. If she’s in the seats, she feels unseen, even in the worshiping crowd. She hosts the small group, week after week, waiting for someone to invite her to their house. But no one does. She serves and gives and waits for fellowship, but even among God’s people? She’s lonely, too.
We can do something about the loneliness. We can.
It’s not another book. Or another group. Another project. The solution is two-fold, and both parts are verbs. We have to do something.
She’s lonely, too. Let that become our mantra. The nudge in our ribs not to fall into self-pity and the kick in our pants to see, really see, those who fill our tables and cubicles and playgroups and churches.
Those ladies? The ones who seem surrounded by people. Those who manage the world. The ones who run until they collapse after midnight. They are lonely. Remind yourself, over and over—she’s lonely, too.
I don’t believe true community is built when churches mandate small groups or parents sit shoulder-to-shoulder watching their kids’ activities. It can’t be forced. The community that combats loneliness is slower, quieter, and much more personal.
It’s an email, text or phone call. Better yet, a handwritten note. It’s putting down the device while you sit on the bleachers to talk to the lady beside you. It’s seeing all the walls the confident one is throwing up to protect herself and offering a hand, a word, or an invitation anyway.
I don’t care who she is. She wants to be seen. She wants to be invited. She’s lonely, too. And she’s hoping you will be the first to cross the line.
I’m lonely. So are my two lovely friends. Maybe so are you.
So let’s do it. Let’s remember. And reach out. And watch God create the connections that will change our lives and our loneliness.
This piece was originally published on the author’s blog