Help for Lonely People
According to a recent report, “lonely people who change negative thoughts on self-worth and how others perceive them reduce their loneliness more than those who focus on simply increasing social interaction.” (Bottom Line Health, Volume 24, Number 11, November, 2010, p. 14, citing an article in Personality and Social Psychology Review).
That set me to thinking: How do you change such negative thoughts about yourself and others’ opinions of you?
Let’s start with ourselves.
If we harbor negative thoughts about our appearance, there are things we can do: Exercise, dress neatly, stand up straight, smile, perhaps change our hair style. Of course, we can’t alter our basic body type or facial configuration, but a hearty smile makes anyone look good.
What about a poor estimation of our performance? We can’t change the past, but we can face reality and try to alter the future. Perhaps our standards are unrealistic, and need adjusting downward. Maybe we are right to be dissatisfied with our actions. In that case, there are usually things we can do, one step at a time, to improve. Let your negative assessment, if accurate, spur you to further growth.
Likewise with others’ opinions of us.
Let’s face it, if people are unhappy about our conduct, they are either right, or wrong, or both. If they are right, we should admit our mistake; apologize; and try to change. If they are wrong, we can take their negative opinion more as a reflection of their mind than of our behavior. If – as is often the case- - they are partly right, we can take what is valuable and ignore the rest.
Of course, none of this is easy, especially if you feel alone and don’t have encouraging folks around you.
Speaking as a Christian, I believe it’s essential for me to remember that I have value because I have been created in the image of God. When I do wrong, which is often, I trust that God will forgive me if I repent of my misdeeds and rely on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for me on the Cross to procure pardon and restoration to God’s favor (I John 1:9-2:2).
At all times, I need to remind myself that I am a beloved child of God (Ephesians 5:1) and that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). When others criticize, justly or unjustly, I recall the rhetorical question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
At that point, I am ready to turn my attention away from myself and toward others, especially those who might feel lonelier than I do: children, teenagers, and the elderly. Nothing gets you out of self-absorption and self-pity than listening to someone else’s story!
Best of all, I know that I am not really alone. There is One who knows, and who cares, and who will be with His people to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
G. Wright Doyle, Director