The Loneliness Cure: It’s in Church

The Loneliness Cure: It’s in Church December 26, 2021

At Christmastime, it is often mentioned that the holidays are a torment for people who don’t have or can’t visit family. Some people endure Christmas in loneliness and despair. My answer to this problem is the same answer I give for most everything: go to Church!

The Extent of Our Loneliness

Our country is currently experiencing two epidemics: COVID and loneliness. Already in 2018, a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Economist showed that 22% of adults in the United States reported feeling lonely, left out, isolated or lacking companionship.

The problem isn’t just American. A 2019 Cigna survey found that 46-47% of Americans and Britons felt lonely and left out. Many said their only companion is the TV or a pet.

Further, in Japan, half of the people under 40 sometimes don’t have human interaction for as long as six months. Over one fourth of Canadian and one third of European Union households are singles.

As amazing as these stats are, since the pandemic, the problem of loneliness and isolation have gotten much worse.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The Causes

There are many cultural changes that have caused so many to live alone or feel lonely. Social media is one. Designed for better communication, it has instead made us a nation of people who can sit side by side staring at our phones but not talking to each other.

Polarization is another. Regretfully, people think they have to “unfriend” those whose political positions are too different from their own. Thus, the circle gets smaller.

The disintegration of family life is another reason. People are marrying later in life or not at all. The high divorce rate leaves a lot of people alone. The low birth rate results in loneliness for many an only child.

The Consequences

Friendship is a basic human desire, a need. Family is an essential social structure. So, loneliness is painful and can lead to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and hallucinations.

There are physical consequences as well. Loneliness triggers cellular changes resulting in inflammation, heart disease, strokes, metastatic cancer and Alzheimer’s. Lonely people have a 26% higher death rate; people living alone have a 32% higher risk of death.

The increasingly higher suicide rate, especially among teens and young adults, is also an indicator of the deadly consequences of loneliness. Young people rate loneliness as their top fear, above losing a house or job, obviously for a good reason.

We are a society in which people often find themselves with no one to lean on in tough times. Alone, it is easy to sink into despair and think suicide is the only way to end the pain.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

The Solution

Why are we doing this to ourselves? If you have few or no friends, or you are alienated from family, who are you going to call upon when you are in need? How about the Church?

A big part of the problem is a culture that has abandoned religion. Although religion is criticized as providing false comfort (Karl Marx called religion the “opiate for the masses”), it is, in fact, a real source of comfort.

That is not to say, “There, there, now. Just say your prayers and all will be well.” Religion is not an empty platitude designed to keep the masses pacified. Religion gives people hope and encourages them to love one another.

However, we can’t love and be each other’s keeper if we don’t interact. As Pope Francis said in his Christmas address:

“Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together,” the pope said.

He also tweeted: “Loneliness is not overcome by closing in on ourselves, but by crying out to the Lord, for the Lord hears the cry of those who find themselves alone.”

Exactly right. We are never alone because God is always with us. The closer relationship we have with God, the closer we will be to all others because divine love directs us to others.

Go to church to enhance your interaction with God and those around you. You cannot despair when you surround yourself with the love and hope that is found in our Catholic Church, if you will accept it.

Go to church and volunteer with a parish organization. In tending to the needs of others you will alleviate your own needs.

Go to church and you won’t be lonely anymore.

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