Theological Reflection on Loneliness, Truth, and Friendship

Loneliness is a common phenomenon that every human being experiences, regardless of their own state in life. A person could be married, could be single with many friends, could be isolated, and could be busy. It doesn’t matter, because loneliness exists when friendships are not healthy as they could be.

Loneliness unfortunately also causes us to “react” in ways we didn’t even realize we could. We are starving for friendship and union with our neighbour, and when something provokes us or appears to be a barrier to filling that void, we are defensive or we retreat.

One of the modern lies that enflames loneliness in the culture today is an indifference to truth. Aristotle reminds us that true friendship is discovered in a common pursuit for the truth, and what binds both people is that which they seek in a united fashion. Theologically we know that this “truth” is actually not merely something facile and technical, but it is a Divine Person who is Love and Truth itself.pleading

If friendship is the cure to loneliness and we live in a world of relativism, it means that human beings are indeed lonelier than they have ever been before. Some people today will parade pluralism as a form of “rising above the quest for truth” echoing Nietzsche’s “beyond good and evil.” Of course those who, believing that in transcending the quest for truth, as a truth of itself, will necessarily fall into such a contradictory blunder. Having a diversity of views is not always bad, but having a diversity of views that contradict each other is. And when there is no room for open dialogue, no willingness to learn from another or be open to another’s view, the door to that person’s soul and entire purpose is being slammed shut.

Another way of explaining it is as follows. The manner with which we perceive the world creates the world we live and breathe in. This is meant in a phenomenological context – or how one “experiences” relationships.  This does not mean that our perceptions are in fact true for us and not for others, but rather our very subjective choices about our world view creates either the illusion or groundedness in reality. When a person has a totally different world view than you, it is as if, while they exist in the same room, they do not exist in the same world as you. You do not belong to their world, and they do not belong to your world. Each individual becomes an Island unto themselves, and if they are comfortable in their world, they will not dare listen to anything that could even prick the conscience to consider otherwise.

Living in two different worlds fosters a great and profound loneliness because man no longer has a unity of mind, and as a result no longer has a unity of heart. Friends, remember, truth defines whether love is genuine. If one has a “different truth” about love than the other, love itself exists in two different worlds not being conjoined to the other, but remaining divorced and separate as Islands unto themselves.

Noisy worldThe great ache, therefore within man for love is founded upon the necessity of truth, and being indifferent to this only will foster the illusion of friendship under the guise of tolerance and sweeping the important issues under the rug. Christ, as a two-edged sword divides because he clarifies where people are actually standing-apart and demonstrates where reconciliation needs to take place. Therefore, in order for forgiveness and mercy to be manifest, it must be done in truth, in integrity, and not through anything else.

Today we live in a culture which seeks to have personal expression as its greatest virtue. Every individual has their own entitled freedom to define the truth for themselves. This, I have seen, has fostered incredible loneliness amongst faithful Catholics. I see Catholics who are filled with resentments (which is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit) because of the deep passionate loneliness of living in a Church where there is seemingly no consensus on what Love is. Driven by this thirst for validation of the truth, a shared world, men and women begin to emphasize conformity and obedience to Tradition as a tangible and sacramental means to experience true unity within the Church or culture. This does sometimes go to an extreme, whereby obsessions disproportionately causes such individuals to neglect charity in such a worthy pursuit. The Church which has seemingly supressed or neglected its traditions by emphasizing inordinately its uniqueness away from the universality of the Church (it’s a tension) is now being reacted to by those who are feeling isolated. One generation reacts to useless conformity done for the wrong reasons, and another generation reacts to lawlessness sought to empower each individual. The pendulum swings between both, and neither seek middle ground, each wants to be heard, and no one wants to listen.  It is not being heard, not being understood, not residing in our own world, that we feel the sting of loneliness more than ever.  Some might hush controversial discussions others might push it beyond what is reasonable:  both are seeking unity by fleeing and fighting.

At the heart of it all is the ontological configuration of man to seek union with his neighbour and God since it is not good that man be alone. Man created for union unnaturally exists when he lives in a spiritually distinct world than others.

We haven’t even begun to mention the honour and glory due to our God. If we merely perceive seeking a united truth for the sake of the community, we nonetheless foster a totalitarianism whereby man must impose a truth upon others, as if truth were a positive law, by which he asserts. Community cannot be genuine if it is artificial as such, and only agreed to for the sake of unity, but not being grounded in reality as such. This means that an inclination towards giving God credit for what He is (Truth) becomes a matter of justice, rather than anything artificial. Speaking the truth about God thereby becomes the actual means to genuine unity with our neighbour, dismissing secular humanism as merely being a facile attempt to accomplish what can only occur through an explicit union with Truth itself.priests

Man’s quest for friendship amidst his fallen, lonely state, thus implies a seeking of the Friend-itself: Jesus. Human beings together, shaken towards this quest as their top priority will only develop a healthier relationship for it, because they will be not only grounded in the same world together, but one that is truly right and just, truly reasonable and rightly ordered, without which, love never remains truly genuine.

In reality, most people do not live entirely distinct from each other, and there is often great overlap. But the pain hanging out a limb through the window during a winter’s day, brings an absence of health to the entire body and can be gravely dangerous, despite the fact that the majority of the body is taken care of. The overlap is a good place to begin, but being indifferent to where truth is not shared is to kill the relationship eventually. Man was created for perfect union, not half-hearted union. Man seeks real love, not lazy love that is content with anything less. For men and women this is impossible, but with God’s Holy Spirit and the splint of Church doctrine, mankind can align itself to God’s truth and thus be assured of genuine friendship and not suffer the great poverty of loneliness.

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