A Harvard study tracked the lives of 7,000 people over 9 years.  Researchers found that the most isolated people were 3 times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections.

People who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated.

Harvard researcher Robert Putnam notes that if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, “You cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”

Solomon, who was given the gift of wisdom, wrote, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)

Having authentic, helpful people who want your best is not necessarily an easy gift to acquire. It seems to me that a lot of so-called friendships are really relationships based on convenience or in helping someone advance a career.

Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

If I may quote Mary Alice from that world changing show, Desperate Housewives, “Human beings are designed for many things. Loneliness isn’t one of them.”

The feeling of loneliness or abandonment is a very powerful emotion and is becoming an epidemic in our fast paced, self-focused culture.

Mother Teresa once said, “The worst poverty of all is not hunger and sickness, but loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted.” And I believe that is true.

It is amazing what we can endure when we have the right people around us cheering us on.
And it is amazing how quickly we quit when we feel alone.

A few years ago, I got lost on the Paris subway system, and I was alone. It was not a pleasant experience. It was amazing how quickly fear and frustration came upon me, as I tried to ask directions in a language I am not good at, as I watched myself get more and more lost.

Being lost on the Paris subway system would have been a much different experience if I would have been with a friend. It would have been more of an adventure than a crisis. More of an education about how to get around Paris than a panicked mind numbing search on how to get back to the airport!

Human beings were created to do life together, helping one another, encouraging one another, teaching one another, supporting one another.

A person who is involved in healthy relationships can sustain and survive and even thrive in the most difficult of circumstances.

A person not in involved in healthy relationships can get very quickly discouraged and quit even when the circumstances are not that bad.

Strangely, some of the loneliest people in the world live in large cities surrounded by massive amounts of people.

Ironically, some of the loneliest people are people who are popular, people who look like they have it all together, people who are outwardly successful leaders.

Loneliness is an interesting phenomenon, because loneliness does not come from being alone.

Loneliness comes from not having deep friendships where you can share your joys, pains, frustrations, questions and dreams.

Loneliness comes when you are carrying the weight of guilt, failure and hurt on your shoulders and you think no one cares or no one understands.

Is there anyone in your life that knows all about you?

Is there anyone in your life where you can be totally transparent and vulnerable?

Who do you go to when you have a bad day?

There is an American Indian Proverb that says, “He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone.”

Jim Roan writes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Now that might depress you as you think about the people you hang out with, but it is true.

You do not find hope and strength by being around just anyone, you have to hang with the right people.

It’s your choice. You can run with people who want to drag you down, people who want to get you distracted, people who want you to compromise or you can run with people who say “You know I want what’s best for you, I want you to finish strong.”

You have to have people around you who say “I’m rooting you on! I am here for you! You can do it!”

How to find and develop good friends:
1) Choose to not isolate
2) Go to good places
3) Be a friend
4) Stay away from negative people
5) Make hanging with good people a lifestyle

Albert Schwitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

We have that power to help others.
But we also must make sure we have those people to help us.

Jack Canfield writes, “If asked could you name the five wealthiest people in the world or five people who have won the Nobel prize or the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress? None of us remembers the head liners of yesterday. When the applause dies, awards tarnish, achievements are forgotten no one cares about who won which award. But if I ask you to list five teacher’s or mentors who believed in you and encouraged you, five friends who have helped you through difficult times, five people who have challenged and taught you something worth while or five people who have just made you feel special. That’s much easier to do isn’t it? That’s because the people who make a difference in your life aren’t the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They’re the ones who care.”

Who is that person who would ride the bus with you?

The Antidote to Loneliness

Alone in a Crowd

Loneliness can be found at every level of society.

The rich can be lonely as well as the poor.
The busy as well as the idle.
The young as well as the old.
The crowded as well as the isolated.
The leaders as well as the followers.
The wedded as well as the single.

Loneliness has less to do with the quantity of people in your life and much more to do with the quality of people.

Loneliness has a lot to do with our soul.

First, our western culture keeps us so busy and focusing on the surface of things that we don’t value the investment and time that it takes to cultivate deep friendships.

Quality friendships demand time and re-prioritizing.
Quality friendships do not happen quickly or easily.
Quality friendships move beyond the, “What’s in it for me?” and requires a commitment of selflessness and humility.

Quality friendships are the antidote to loneliness.

William Shakespeare wrote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Helen Keller wrote, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Quality friendships motivate your character to mature.

These kinds of friendships make us want to be better people.
These kinds of friendships challenge us to grow our moral fiber.
These kinds of friendships are not always easy, but they are invaluable.

When I’m around my friend Eldon who sponsors 21 Compassion children, I want to be a more generous person.

When I’m around my friends Tom and Janis who work passionately and tirelessly with the homeless, I want to be a more caring, less judgmental person.

When I’m around my friend Mike, who believes in the power of prayer, I want to be a more faith filled person.

When I’m around my friend Kevin, who is one of the most selfless people I know, I want to be a better friend.

When I’m around my friend Ginger, who loves the broken-hearted and the grieving, I want to be a more empathizing person.

The writer of proverbs compares these kinds of friendships to how when iron sharpens iron, there is friction and sparks result, but the long term result wins out over the short term pain.

These kinds of friendships are rare.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, invest in them.
If you do, thank them for what they do.

Quality friendships also respect and treasure your soul.

These kinds of friendships look past the “What can you do for me?” question and attaches great importance on how that friend is doing on the inside.

What fears are paralyzing their soul?
What sins are strangling their soul?
What unmet dreams are saddening their soul?

Quality friendships go to these deeper places.

James wrote in the New Testament to confess your fears, your sins, your feelings to each other and pray for one another and the result will be the healing of your heart.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, value them, invest in them and thank them.

Quality friendships ultimately encourage your journey.

We live in a very negative, tear one another down world.

The hostile environment of the work place, the cyber bullying of the internet, the ridiculing comments and judgment of the school yard can drive us to deep discouragement and low self-esteem.

As people of faith, we are supposed to be the contradiction to our mean spirited culture.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to spend our days “thinking of ways to encourage one another toward creative outbursts of love and good deeds.”

Child expert Kevin Heath wrote, “Four very powerful words to say to your child: I BELIEVE IN YOU!” yet I would argue that those are the words that are used often in all deep, quality, life-giving friendships.

During one of our summer camps on our campus, we had over 450 grade school students, who needed to know that someone believed in them. I thought I would try something.

After lunch, the students would line up, single file to go outside to the water games or to the gym for sports, so on the first day I stood at the front of the line and as the kids begin to file out, I tried to tell as many of them as I could how special they were.

As they walked by I would point at each one and say, “You are amazing, you are spectacular, I love how smart you are, you are awe-inspiring, you are stoopendous, you are truly remarkable, you are superb, you are wonderful, you are magnificent, you are astounding, you are grand, you are splendid, you are outstanding, your are perfecto, you are impressive and you are groovy!”

You get the idea. On the first day, the kids were looking at me and thinking, “Who is this man? Stranger danger.”

But by the third day, the kids were lining up with anticipation of what they were going to hear and they would yell out to me, “Pick me! Pick me!”

As humans, we were created for encouragement and our culture has abandoned this practice and our souls are dying of starvation.

Do you have people in your life who encourage your journey?
Do you encourage other people’s journey?

Let’s try practicing what the writer of Hebrews taught us. I have never met anyone who has said, “Please, stop encouraging me, I’ve had enough!”

People will rise to the level of expectation that we give them.

Jesus was the master of this. He came to a loudmouthed fisherman named Simon, and he told him that he was going to rename him Peter (Petros-rock) and that he was going to be the foundation of the church and the gates of hell would not prevail. And over time, Simon began living like Peter, and he was never the same.

Speak encouragement into the people around you and watch them rise up to the words that you have given them.

God created us to be in deep, meaningful relationships.
Don’t neglect one of life’s most essential needs.

Find people who will motivate your character and do the same for others.
Find people who will respect and treasure your soul and do the same for others.
Find people who will encourage your journey and do the same for other.

You will see loneliness slip away and purpose and meaning follow.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Mother Teresa