Posts tagged ‘University of Chicago’

ABC Extra – The Danger of Loneliness

Loneliness is epidemic.  An old Gallup poll from 1990 found that 36% of Americans report feeling lonely.  And yet, study after study has shown that the feeling of loneliness and physical isolation are not always interconnected.   Three social scientists from the University of Chicago, the University of California, and Harvard University recently conducted a study which noted that there is a “discrepancy between an individual’s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network.”  These researchers concluded that loneliness is, at least in part, contagious.  They point to a 1965 study by Harry Harlow on rhesus monkeys.  Harlow noted that when an isolated monkey was reintroduced into a colony of monkeys, the monkey was driven away from the community.  The researchers then noted, “Humans may similarly drive away lonely members of their species…Feeling socially isolated can lead to one becoming objectively isolated.”  The idea, then, is this:  Subjectively feeling alone leads to objectively being alone.  But this is not a good thing.  Indeed, the researchers open their study with this sobering statement:  “Social species do not fare well when forced to live solitary lives.”

What three social scientists spent many years and thousands of dollars to study and discover, the Bible already knew.  From the very beginning of creation, immediately after God created the first human being, Adam, God knew, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  As I mentioned in ABC, in a twist of cross-phonological irony, the Hebrew word for “alone” is bad.  And when this word is applied to human beings, this is indeed the case.  It is bad for a human being to be alone.   And yet, at least at first glance, the case seems to be somewhat different with God.

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You” (Nehemiah 9:6).  “God alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). “I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24).  In each of these instances, the Hebrew word for “alone” is bad.  And it is used, quite proudly I might add, of God.  But when this word is used with regard to God, it is not so much used to describe God’s isolation as it is used to describe God’s uniqueness.  It is God alone who created the earth and can use His creation as He desires.  No one else has this privilege and prerogative.  God is unique, but He is not isolated.  Indeed, God’s very Trinitarian nature is evidence that He is not alone in the reclusivist sense, for He is in perfect communion with Himself.

As a reflection of the communion that God has within Himself, He had designed us to have communion with other people.  For a human being to live life alone is indeed bad – in the English sense.  This leads us, then, to some questions.  Do we have deep, meaningful relationships where we know others and are known by others?  If you are married, is your marriage strong and is your spouse you first and finest earthly companion, or are you merely two individuals who happen to be living in the same house?  For those who do suffer from loneliness, do you seek to befriend others in Jesus’ name?

God is not alone.  And we should not be alone either.  This is why Jesus’ final promise was not one of isolation, but of presence:  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  In Christ, we are never alone.  And that’s a good thing.

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May 16, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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