I had the occasion to address this topic with someone recently and I was surprised that I had not written about this before now. Loneliness is oft equated, and I think confused, with being alone. Being alone is just a factual state when one is by themselves. One can be alone without being lonely. One can be lonely in a crowd. First, appreciating being alone likely puts us in a better position to better connect to others as we are less needy/ desperate which is generally not attractive.
We often approach loneliness as only something that needs to be cured, gotten rid of, and relieved as soon as possible – once again, which puts in that position of being needy and desperate relying on someone else to satisfy or relieve the discomfort. This would be an example of the unhealthy negative emotion of loneliness (see Healthy vs. Unhealthy Emotions posted (06/26/2012).
Instead, we would do better to treat loneliness as the useful/ healthy emotion that it can be by understanding that it motivates us to connect with others as we are designed to do in varying degrees.
We have a great influence on whether or not we are alone in that we can go to public places and be around other people; however, we have limited control over whether or not we “connect” with others as that partially depends on them and their desire to “connect” with us. We are in a much better position to attract others when we are comfortable being alone; thus, taking care of our business – caring for ourselves physically, paying attention to our appearance, keeping our house reasonably clean and in some sense of order, working or being involved productively, paying bills, etc. So, when we are not in a position to connect with others, our task is to enjoy caring for ourselves; then, when the opportunity presents itself, we will be in a good position to connect.
Loneliness serves the purpose of driving us to connect with God first and then others: family, friends, work relations, community contacts, those with whom we do business, neighbors, and romantic interests. Warning: The hardest of these is the romantic interest, so it’s best to be patient and focus on the others and then the romantic is more likely to come.