Episode 15: Lonelieness, Friendships, and Big Wheels
Do you ever feel like you’re the only one who’s lonely? Do you ever find yourself wanting more depth and meaning in your relationships? Well, today’s topic is loneliness, and those feelings might be common than you think. We’ll talk about the prevalence of loneliness in our society, the way it manifests in different life stages, what practical steps we can take to address loneliness, and how God’s truth of who we are brings us together. Michael and Lindsay both get candid about times in their lives they have experienced loneliness and Evan ponders how cool someone can look wandering around with a lunch tray.
4:30 - How we perceive loneliness, how it can also be experienced by extroverts, and how it’s also commonly experienced by public figures like pastors.
“I have outgoing friends who can light up a room but when they go home, they don’t see themselves as having robust or deep, meaningful relationships. So on the outside, they can’t possible seem lonely but they might still feel disconnected. This effects a lot of pastors, teachers, and other really public figures because they spend so much of their day being outward-focused.”
7:45 - Loneliness is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lindsay references research done by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on the topic of loneliness and how the UK has appointed a Minister of Loneliness in their government. Also, we explore the factors that have contributed to the rising rates of loneliness, such as urbanization, the emergence of nuclear families over multi-generational households, as well as the increase rates of divorce. Today, 1 in 4 people in the US live by themselves.
“One of the characteristics of loneliness is that you think you’re one of the only people who feel this way. The time you most need connection is ironically the time you think there’s no one like you. Statistically, though, loneliness is experienced by tons of people and that number is escalating.”
13:55 - The post-college season of life is often marked by loneliness. Some of this is due to leaving structured community and having to find it on your own for the first time, but it’s also part of individuating as an adult. Lindsay references a 2019 survey in which 3 out of 5 adults reported feeling lonely, and Evan shares his own post-college experiences with community.
“My experience has been after college that I didn’t necessarily suffer from a lack of quantity of relationships but rather a lack of quality.”
18:45 - What other factors are expanding the feelings of loneliness in our society? Michael goes over some demographic data:
The average age of marriage for a woman living in 1960 was 18, and children were usually had within the first year of marriage
The average age of marriage for a woman now is 29, and the average age of a woman having her first child is 33.
Also, we observe what trends in the church have contributed to the rise of loneliness and isolation.
“Another phenomenon going in the church is the segmentation of age groups. When kids go off to college, you suddenly leave the cohort model and become surrounded by people of all ages, often when you’re not married or family building.”
24:45 - Do children help solve the issue of children? (SPOILER: please don’t have kids just because you’re feeling lonely)
26:05 - How hard it is to adjust to life when it doesn’t feel linear anymore (another shared problem among post-college adults.
28:30 - How do we assess our own levels of loneliness? There isn’t a simple 5-step solution, and sometimes the church caters to that quick-fix mindset. In fact, that philosophy can sometimes make the situation work because it can make us feel as though we’re doing something wrong when we aren’t. Lindsay talks about the benefits of seeing a counselor or therapist, because loneliness can sometimes stem from depression.
“Struggling to connect with others in a meaningful way can be a product of our family background, depressive symptoms, social anxiety, or just an unmet desire for deep connections. Sometimes loneliness can stem from being afraid of being vulnerable.”
36:30 - It is important as Christians for us to look for lonely people to bring into our circles.
“ It is important for the Kingdom of God to invite those people into our communities and lives. Even if you don’t have the bandwidth for more people in your life, you should try to connect them with others.”
38:05 - What are good next steps to get out of loneliness? For one thing, you can always try to reconnect with old friends. It can be awkward, but the process can help you become more vulnerable. Also, we need to be kind to ourselves; it takes time to build meaningful relationships. Knowing God’s thoughts for you can also help you overcome feelings of loneliness.
“We as Christians believe everyone is created by God with sacred worth, so our understanding of that seems important to deconstructing the narrative that our value is determined by what others think of us.”
45:45 - What are the similarities of finding friends and dating? They’re actually very similar, if you think about it. Loneliness is also a cyclical part of life.
“It is like riding like a bike again; friendships and loneliness are cyclical. You get married, have kids, raise them, and then you become empty nesters. Each time it’s like riding a bike all over again because you’ve changed and the world has changed. ”
48:15 - Do you remember Big Wheels? Evan does, and he has a great metaphor about how we often resort to nostalgia to fix our problems when new solutions are readily available. Also, Michael talks about the weight of expectation when we meet new people.
“Life is tough, and we often resort to going back to the familiar in order to address our new problems. It’s like trying to peddle a big wheel down a mountain when we could be using a mountain bike.”
53:30 - UCLA developed a loneliness scale to help self-diagnose your levels of feeling isolated; it’s not a solution, but it can be a good first step. Lindsay shares her experience of being singled out as a “sad, lonely person” and Evan gives a theory that no one can look cool holding a lunch tray.
1:01:30 - What are some strategies for addressing your loneliness? For one, you can establish consistency in where you go publicly to help create connections (think like what gym you go to, which restaurants you frequent, etc.). Also, be the friend you want to have! Look for lonely people and reach out.
1:09:15 - Are there support groups for lonely people? Maybe, but that might not be the best option.
“Support groups for lonely people are sometimes a direct contradiction. Support groups are great at connecting people who have experienced unique challenges and bringing them together to make them feel less lonely.”
1:12:50 - Closing Thoughts
- Lindsay: there’s nothing wrong with feeling lonely. Nothing’s wrong, nothing’s broken. It just means we need to help you find new ways to connect with others.
- Michael: loneliness is not a sign of spiritual weakness. It’s not a sign of a mental health disorder, bad personality or not being good enough. It’s a universal experience known by every human being, and it comes in cycles.
- Evan: what I love about Christian faith is the idea that God is never done working in our lives. When we approach life with the confidence of that, there’s more to us and there’s opportunities to connect with others.
Link to an adult-sized Big Wheel (you never know what friends you might make)