Relational poverty is one of the greatest challenges our culture faces today. These days we tend to have followers but not friends, likes but not love, comments but not conversations, crowds but not companions, churches but not communities. Our society has popularized a new kind of relational experience—one that gives us a broader network of ‘contacts’ but lessens the importance of having deep, meaningful connections with others. The priority on ‘I, me, mine’ has eclipsed any sense of ‘us, we, ours,’ and the result is that people feel more alone than ever before. Our time has been dubbed the ‘age of loneliness.’ In fact, it’s been estimated that one in five Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.
Loneliness has a way of compounding so that when we feel alone, we assume we’re the only ones that ever feel that way. You might feel alone in the pain of a devastating loss, alone in your addiction, alone in your marriage. You might feel alone as a parent trying to raise kids, as a professional trying to balance your life, as a student struggling to find your identity. When we feel alone, we can start to feel unknown. And sometimes in those moments we feel the temptation to compromise who we are. ‘Alone’ can be a dangerous place.
Eve had a conversation with the serpent; Noah got drunk; Moses murdered; David had an affair, Peter denied Jesus—and all these things happened when these people were alone. There’s a pattern there. This is why God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We were created for connection. We were created to be known.
I have tasted the bland reality of loneliness, and I have learned that the feeling of loneliness is an internal siren alerting your soul to the craving you have to be known by God and by other people. In that way, loneliness can serve a purpose in our lives, at least initially, but there are only a few reasons—none of them good—as to why we might choose to perpetuate that stark existence. At the top of that list is love’s opposite, apathy.
Apathy is indifference. It’s the ‘I don’t care’ attitude that arrests our desire to love and be loved, leaving us feeling alone and unknown, coasting through life. Our apathy serves as a coping mechanism that shields us from feeling. We secure ourselves behind the brick and mortar of statements like, “I don’t care what people think about me,” when, if we’re being honest, the exact opposite is true. We care about what people think of us so much that we can’t deal with the idea of letting someone know us—all of our quirks, strengths, weaknesses, world-views, gifts, and gaps—because that gives them the power to accept or reject us based on our level of vulnerability. So we often create superficial selves and relegate every relationship to the shallow end of the relational experience. Because we know how badly rejection can hurt, we’re afraid that someone might get to know us and decide not to like us. But the foundation of intimacy is vulnerability, and if you can’t be vulnerable, honest, and open, then you will never be able to escape the terrible prison of superficiality. You will never be able to fully embrace what it is to be real.
EXPLORE ADDITIONAL CONTENT FOR “KNOWN”