This is an article on loneliness written by my oldest son Jaren a couple of years ago. I have edited it for my blog purposes. As we move toward The Coming Teen Decade (2013-2019), look around you. We may live on a small planet with almost 7 billion people on it, but, many young people are crippled by loneliness. Look around you at school, or work, or even in your own home for a young person who may be doing life alone. The signs are not always clear. You could be lonely in a crowd. And, one of the growing movements in America is human trafficking. The wicked scheme of Satan to lure a generation away from their creator and His purpose for their life into a lifetime of slavery to drugs, sex, or work. This almost always begins with loneliness. At the end of the article I will give some practical help.
Growing up through the adolescent years of life can be difficult in a many ways. I believe that among the trials, loneliness is at the forefront of what troubles young people all over the world. It is so customary in our world for adolescents to be left out and lonely, and at this time in their lives it is so essential for them to be accepted. I know we can all remember being in elementary school and trying to make friends, or going through middle school and trying to fit in or make the basketball team. Everyone, in some way, is trying to fit in and become accepted. When acceptance is out of reach, loneliness will often settle in and take over.
Although adolescent loneliness is an extensive problem today and much research has been conducted, it is debated as to what it exactly means for an adolescent to be lonely. The most common definition is an "unpleasant experience that occurs when a person's network of social relationships is significantly deficient in either quality or quantity” (Uruk and Demir).
I believe that everyone in this world is searching for relationship. One of the worst things that can happen to an adolescent is having unhealthy (or a lack of) relationships. Whether it is with family, friends, or a random stranger. We have experiences with many different kinds of people each and every day, and every encounter either brings us satisfaction or emptiness. Adolescents are especially susceptible to the highs and lows of relationships. There are a numerous amount of reasons for why adolescents become lonely, but here are just two signs of loneliness.
The first cause of adolescent loneliness that can be vital to many areas of one’s life is social anxiety. It seems as though this is one of the most eminent obstacles for a young person to face when trying to find acceptance and relationship. Social anxiety can mean a few different things, but I believe what it means to experience this is being constantly uneasy or even scared about meeting new people, or simply being around other people. “Social anxiety is the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and criticism. Put another way, social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression” (Richards)
From my research I discovered that someone who is lonely almost always suffers from some form of social anxiety. When you think about how an adolescent may become lonely or feel misplaced, it is usually because there is a barrier or hindrance that does not allow he/she to interact appropriately in the social world. When the problem of adolescent loneliness is considered, it is almost a guarantee that there is some form of social anxiety that takes place in the individual. Social anxiety is what may drive someone away from happiness or contentment, and push him or her toward loneliness or depression.
Although there are many causes of loneliness, the final cause I want to deal with is peer rejection. Many times when a child is experiencing loneliness, a lot of why they are feeling this way comes from being rejected by their peers. At school, work, or society, there are a lot of pressures that can drive someone to emotional or physical loneliness. The damage than one can receive from harsh peer rejection can last for a lifetime. It can be devastating. “Peer rejection is a powerful force in adolescent life, especially when the person being rejected is also ridiculed, harassed, or bullied. Although rejection leads to murder and suicide only in rare instances, it is associated with countless other acts of lesser signs such as violence, delinquency, isolation, and loneliness” (Cook). It is clear that the countless amount of suffering that can occur from peer rejection is far too severe to be taken lightly, as many times there have been school shootings and acts of violence due to loneliness and peer rejection.
My words to you today are simple. Be the relationship that an adolescent might need today. It may be your smile, an unselfish act of getting a door, offering to pay for a drink/meal, or a well-timed compliment for something they are wearing or have said. As we come to the next 7 years of The Teen Decade (2013-2019), counter the loneliness in our culture by modeling healthy relationships to everyone around you. You never know when something you say or do is a prophetic move to combat the struggle of loneliness.