Loneliness isn’t necessarily wanting company. It’s being with other people and feeling like you’re different. You can laugh at the right moments and wear the right stuff, but you’re always out of step. You know it and they know it and the harder you try, the worse it gets. You cackle and clap and blunder in and withdraw, all the time praying: ‘Like me dammit, LIKE ME’.
I know a guy who grew up with hearing difficulties and as a result, felt like he was always locked out. He can hear much better now, but still struggles with social interaction. When nervous, he’ll bellyflop into conversations with something completely inappropriate: it’s better to have negative attention than not to exist.
Trying to be liked is exhausting and after a certain point, it’s tempting to give up. Maybe you retreat into self-pity. I’m misunderstood. People are threatened by my intelligence. Other women are jealous – and men are just er, weird.
Or you beat yourself up: I’m a loser. Of course I have no friends, because I’m boring/too fat/too thin/ugly/stupid/brunette. I hate me and everyone else does too.
There’s the anger option. They don’t want me? Well, sod ’em all. I can cope fine on my own. I’ll seal myself off and they’re never know me really and I’ll never hurt like this again.
All these are tempting. But they’re partial truths – which is to say, lies. The reality is this:
Of course I’m flawed. I’m far worse than others think – worse than I’ll ever know myself. My life revolves around me; almost every decision is motivated by self-interest, greed, fear, ignorance.
I’m also misunderstood. No-one – not even my husband, will ever know me completely. I don’t know myself.
I can seal myself off and cope alone – for a time. It’ll protect me from harm; but it’ll seal me off from life too.
The affirmation and acceptance I’m so thirsty for – will never be met by other people. Not my friends, not my partner, not my family, not my job. This hurts – and it’s right to grieve. But it’s not the final word. On the other side of rejection is a bigger truth: what we crave we never needed. But what we have in Jesus, can never be taken away. Perhaps in His acceptance I’m freed from seeking yours.