I was recently reading an article titled “The Lonely Crowd”. It was suggesting that the term “the lonely crowd,” coined in the 1950s by sociologist David Riesman, was very much alive and well in our 21st century culture. In fact, the figures that it quoted were quite startling.
If we are going to be real and authentic, we need people in our lives that know us, and we can share “matters that are important to us”. That means we share the good and bad things. In 1985 it was recorded in a survey that 59% of the respondents had at least three people in their lives that they were able to genuinely share life with. By 2004 that number who fitted into that category had dropped to 37%, a significant drop in 19 short years. In 1985 only 10% recorded they had no one in their lives that they could share life with, sadly that number had risen to 25% by 2004. In fact, zero was the most recorded number in the study in 2004. The author of the study reflected, “One out of every four of us is walking around with no one to share our lives with.” [Ref. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.] As we approach 2023, another 19 years on, I wonder what the test results would look like if they did it now? My guess is probably worse again.
I am not sure that the figures would be any different for those inside the church to those outside the church. We seem to be good at having groups that deal with biblical subjects, even self-help or skills programmes, but are we known in our church communities? It is said that we tend to hide our troubles and our failures, we don’t want to be vulnerable or look like we are not coping or worse, being thought “needy”. Strangely when I grew up there was a saying that “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Unfortunately, you need to tell someone the problem first for that to happen.
Psychologist Brené Brown says, “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness — even our wholeheartedness — actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.” Is that you? I know it is me on occasions. I want it to look like I have it together, even if that is not completely true. I might be turning 65 soon, but I am starting to look more carefully at my relationships with my wife, family and looking around to check that I have friends I can realistically do life with. That will involve me looking at some of my stuff. So here are my thoughts.
It is said love is spelt TIME, so I need to get rid of some of my busyness and activities and do less… better. Do the people that matter have my time?
When I am with the ones I love, do they have my attention not just my physical proximity? No matter how good your listening skills are you can always be better. (Look up “active listening” on the internet and put it into practice, your life could change radically!)
The last one is simple but strangely effective. It is called “reciprocity” for which the simplest explanation is when a person rings you on the phone, YOU ring them back another time. (Especially if you miss the call and they leave you a message.) You have no idea how many relationships fail because one side of the relationship feels they are doing all the work, both inside and outside marriages. Do your share of the connecting!
As I enter this next phase of my life, I have decided to prioritise relationships. I have no intention of being a “no mate” just because I got scared or lazy. So, what about you, where would you be in that survey if you were honest? It’s never too late to improve.