I am lonely.
There. I admit it. It’s not an easy thing to admit that I am lonely. After all, I am a man. Men are never to admit they are lonely. Not only am I a man but I am a minister. Ministers of congregations which love them are never to admit they are lonely.
But not only am I a man and a minister but a husband of a beautiful wife. Husbands whose wives love them unconditionally, communicate openly and with whom a harsh word is seldom spoken are never to admit they are lonely.
But I am lonely. And I have been lonely for a long time. But I have learned to do what most men do with their loneliness. I pushed that loneliness down into the deepest, darkest basement of my life. I locked that loneliness there and agreed never to admit again that I was lonely. And to cover the screams from that deepest cellar I did what men have done for centuries. I not only told myself and my world that I was not lonely, but I gave myself to other things which would cover up my loneliness.
First of all, I gave myself completely to my work. As a man, I could rationalise the need to “bring home the bacon” as a truly honest way to cover up my loneliness. As a pastor, what better way to spend my life but to give it for my God and His Church? The louder my loneliness screamed the more I dived into the ministry.
Secondly, I gave myself to sports. I loved to run. I loved to cycle. These became my best friends as I learned to be able to push my body to its limit. I was thrilled to accomplish things of which my peers only dreamed. Loneliness didn’t have a chance to be noticed in my life.
Thirdly, in order to suppress my loneliness, I gave myself to anything which built my ego. I found areas of life in which I was able to find success. I bought a home. I built a home. I played golf. I mastered computers. I bought cars. These “things” were to keep my loneliness quiet.
If you would have told me I was lonely, I would have laughed at you. If I would have told others I was lonely, they would have laughed at me. But then came my “midlife” and the “crisis” which accompanied it. And it was as if someone had found the key to that hidden basement dungeon and released my loneliness. My work no longer satisfied me.
My physical body was letting my ego down. My projects, no matter how glamorous, did not mute my loneliness. My spiritual life dried like a fallen leaf. The loneliness I hid for so many years was winning the battle. I was succumbing to a force I felt I could no longer control.
Then I tried one last effort to stem the flow of this great swelling river of loneliness. On the Internet I found a friend. Through a commonly used chat-line I found someone who accepted me for who I was. I found a person who encouraged me through my inner turmoil of loneliness. I discovered another human being outside my family who actually cared for me. I was captured by her interest in me. Friendly chats soon turned to long intimate conversations; which turned to telephone calls; then to meeting personally; and finally to a sexual encounter.
But the joy of finding this supposed soul mate and relief from my loneliness turned to despair as the guilt of facing the consequences of my sin were encountered. I realised my loneliness was still alive. I chose to repent and to return to my wife and to my family to restore my relationship with them. And, thankfully, they have accepted me back unconditionally.
But the story does not end here. Unfortunately, I am still lonely. The loneliness from which I ran and from which I sought relief is still with me. But now there is a difference. With the recent help of a caring counsellor I have come to realise several things about my loneliness.
First, I have come to understand that I am not alone in my struggle. Many men before me have tried to suppress their loneliness in many of the same ways I did. The mechanisms I used to cover up my loneliness were not new ones. The sin which I committed was not that unusual. I take great consolation in the fact that other men are experiencing what I am facing.
Secondly, I have learned that my struggle with loneliness had a cause which stemmed back into my early days. As a child, I had several basic needs. I had the need for touch and acceptance by both my mother and father. As a young boy, I had a need to communicate with and receive encouragement from my father.
One of my greatest needs was to be initiated into manhood by my father. This initiation would ready me and steady me for my life as an adult. Not unlike many other men, these needs were never fulfilled in my childhood and adolescent years. I have lived my entire adult life yearning to be fulfilled but looking in the wrong places for such fulfillment and constantly covering the loneliness and emptiness which resulted.
Thirdly, I have great hope because now, though I am experiencing loneliness, I have a strategy in place to resolve this life-long problem. I know that I must reconcile my relationship with my father. I am conscious of my need for a mentor who will help me to sort out many of the related family issues.
But above all else, I am aware of my need for deep friendship relationships with other men who yearn for what I am seeking. It will be these friendships that will cause the loneliness to dissipate.
What are the characteristics of such powerful friendships? These male relationships are characterised by accountability, encouragement and freedom to explore issues of life without condemnation. Men today need to know that other men will be willing to ask tough questions at appropriate times. Men today need male friends who will love them unconditionally. Men today need to be able to communicate inner feelings without being judged by their fellow-man.
Yes, presently, I am lonely. Yes, I have failed in my own meager and sinful attempts to deal with my loneliness. But with the help of my God, my wife and family and others who are seeking my best interest, I believe that the loneliness I now experience will be something which will be put in my past.
Editor’s Note: Certainly there is much in this male author’s observations that applies to both genders, too.
For further insight on addressing loneliness-related issues see
Ministry Health Article 274 “Checklist or Loneliness”
This article is copyrighted and reprinted by permission of the anonymous author through John Mark Ministries, Dr. Rowland Croucher, Director. (firstname.lastname@example.org)