I have thought a lot over the last few weeks about an epidemic that I believe is taking our culture by storm-Loneliness. We have our “Pinterest Perfect Pictures” and our “Flawless Facebook Fairy tales” that are flashed before our eyes as the golden standard for living. And even though I believe most of us realize that these are not all attainable or “must haves” for our lives, they somehow still have the power over us to make us feel less. We text instead of talking-it’s more convenient and more direct; you can cut out the “fluff” and get to the point. We live in a world of fast pace and instant gratification.
Please do not shut me out. This is not one of those “let’s all go live on a mountain and eat nuts and berries” kind of blog posts. I love Pinterest and I’m on Facebook. I text probably just as must as the next gal and my schedule is jam packed with events. But I have been wondering how much all of these things contribute to the fact that in one way or the other, many of us feel lonely.
It is so very easy for the people living in today’s culture to lose their authenticity. It’s much easier to put our mask on every day as we walk out the door and to act as though we've got it all together. And even though very few, if any of us, actually fit into these cookie cutter lifestyles, we want so very much to act as though we do.
I would compare it to a lady buying a fabulous pair of shoes… The shoes are gorgeous. They are the shoes that everyone wants. Surely everyone will be envious of this pair of shoes. The only problem is that they are two sizes too small. So, this lady hobbles around in her gorgeous-too-small- for-me shoes, as she smiles and welcomes everyone’s admiration. But here’s the deal: she is in pain. She is rubbing blisters. And every night before she goes to bed she must soak her sore feet in warm water and put Band-Aids on them before she slips her tired, worn out feet under the covers to rest. And the next day, she does it all again.
I wonder how many of us do this with our hearts? I wonder how many of us are walking around with Band-Aids on our hearts because we feel we have to, or we must act as though we've got it all together.
You see, a mom crying over her special needs child and his struggles is not a very “Pinterest Pretty” thing. What about the single parent? The divorced parent? The couple having marital problems? The couple that has just lost their baby? The man struggling with depression? …the list could go on and on and none of these are “Facebook Fairy tales” but each of them are very real and happen every day. It seems that we live in our own lonely silos believing that no one on the outside would or could understand what we are facing.
Many of us have a true failure to connect. We stuff our lives and true feelings way down deep inside because that’s what society has taught us to do. We have more connection to a social media site or a television show than we do to actual people. And then, we wonder why we feel lonely.
If only we could spark a generation of authenticity. This is something the Lord has laid heavily upon my heart. I do not have to have it all together nor must I fit into a cultural cookie cutter.
Having a son with Autism has definitely helped to open my eyes to the freedom that can be found when you toss out whatever your “perceived normal” is and embrace the life the Lord has gifted you with-the good and the hard times. I try not to worry about what everyone else’s six year old is doing or what great milestones they have achieved. For my child, every step taken independently is a victory, every word spoken is music to my ears, and every time he is able to bring himself to look me in the eyes, my heart melts.
I don’t mind telling you that it is very hard. I don’t mind telling you that there are nights that my husband and I sit on our couch and cry because we have watched our child struggle all evening. I don’t mind telling you that most days my house looks like a tornado has run through it because, well, that’s just the least of my concerns right now. I don’t mind telling you that the ONLY way I make it through each day is by finding my strength in the Lord- because I don’t have it in me to do all this alone. And do you know what? Something about being able to come to grips with this and toss out the cookie cutter lifestyle is quite liberating.
Let’s just get honest. When we take off our masks and get real with one another, that’s when we can build authentic relationships. No, I am not trying to encourage that we walk around airing our dirty laundry with whomever we meet or having a “woe is me” attitude. What I do want, is for us to no longer feel it necessary to live in our own little silos of life, feeling lonely, and only coming out when we feel we might be able to produce the very best “canned version” of ourselves, based on what the world says is acceptable. I fear that far too many of us are putting Band-Aids over all our wounds in order to achieve a false fairy tale front that will only result in loneliness.
By the way, I’m also not necessarily trying to encourage a “fast from Facebook” or a “pilgrimage away from Pinterest”, but it is good to have a reminder that no one is perfect. We are all imperfect. We all are in desperate need grace. None of us have it all together. Isn't that refreshing to remember?
So, go out to lunch with your friend. Have a real conversation. Talk about real things. Remind them that they are not alone. Instead of judgment, let’s offer love covered in grace. Let’s do life with one another! Let us safeguard one another from the epidemic of loneliness. Let’s be authentic!
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:7