I really want to address the topic of loneliness, because it is often a common thread that runs through the lives of Side B Christians and people who struggle with SSA.
A while ago I did a web search on the topic of ‘loneliness’ and it came up with some articles by Emily White, who authored “Loneliness: A Memoir”. I was curious to find out more, and she has some insightful thoughts about how loneliness is stigmatised, and often we struggle even to admit that we feel lonely – it may be easier to admit we are depressed! There is so much pressure to keep up a façade of having a busy and full social life, thus people rarely talk about it.
Yet what was even more intriguing to me was the fact that the author identified as a lesbian. I found out that she had been in a long-term lesbian relationship for several years, until her partner left her unexpectedly. Yet she wrestled with loneliness not just after the partner left, but virtually all of her life. It has been a deep, pervasive undercurrent of her life experience. Emily White is not a believer, although it appears she is open to spirituality and church services.
Anyhow, the point of the story is that while many people in our contemporary, Western society deal with varying degrees of loneliness – it appears that Side B Christians often feel even more isolated and alone. Of course, often people find that after becoming a believer, they receive much strength and comfort from God and from Christian community. Many find counselling, spiritual direction and mentoring very helpful too.
Though I must admit, most Christians who struggle with SSA still feel a sense of loneliness. For some it is all the time, for some it is only occasionally. Knowing God, being in community, and having good friends doesn’t necessarily take it away. The reason I know is because I have wrestled with it, too. I know that it’s not just a problem with my surroundings. It stems from feelings of rejection, abandonment and attachment problems in my childhood.
And because it is such a challenging area, I am wary of providing pat answers. I am also wary of condemning people by implying that it’s a simple issue, because loneliness is not resolved quickly or easily. I do think that some people are greatly helped by church community, mentoring, or having a more active social life. Often living in a Christian share house is a wonderful way to ease loneliness and build a sense of daily community.
And yet, there is more to it. For some people, a few changes to their external world and lifestyle make all the difference. For others, the sense of loneliness never leaves, no matter where they go. It doesn’t matter who they are with, or how much they are loved – the loneliness doesn’t just magically disappear. It may be temporarily relieved and social activities may provide a welcome distraction, but it always seems to come back somehow.
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