Albert Woodfox may be released from prison in a few days. He’s known as the “longest-standing” prisoner in solitary confinement totaling 43 years. Some 80,000 inmates are estimated to be in solitary confinement in the US. The United Nations claims solitary confinement is inhumane. As the saying goes,
Solitary will drive you crazy.
Solitary confinement causes anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, anger, and suicidal thoughts.
All this proves…it is not good for man to be alone.
Aside from imprisonment, there are a number of contributing factors to the loneliness and isolation of men today (I’m sure there are more, but here are a few I brainstormed):
1. The Digital Age: despite digital connections, people still feel lonely without face-to-face connection. Video games, social media, and texting have only served to disconnect us from intimacy and interpersonal interaction.
2. Bullying: Whether it be online or physical, bullying causes isolation and withdrawal. Many victims don’t speak up because they are afraid of repercussions or worry about coming across as weak.
3. Shame: Nothing quite isolates us like shame. Feelings of inadequacy or the disappointment of others keeps people from social interaction.
4. Depression: When men feel depressed, many go into hiding instead of asking those around them for help.
5. Heartbreak: losing a loved one, whether it be a break-up or death, causes people to go into seclusion.
6. Discrimination: sometimes loneliness can be caused by others. Discrimination causes segregation based on race, age, gender, disability or sexuality.
All of these highlight the importance of social connection. We were not designed to be alone. We were created as relational beings.
The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’
Many might take this to mean marriage, but there is broader meaning. We were created to live beyond ourselves. We were created to live for others. According to Dr. Terry Kupers, Professor of Psychiatry, Wright Institute in Berkeley California:
Human beings require two very basic things: social interaction and meaningful activity.
Men need connection and purpose. To exist is not enough, our souls demand some form of intimacy and legacy.
Our natural instincts as men are to provide and protect. I believe many men have a desire for marriage so they can fulfill these innate purposes. However, marriage isn’t a solution for loneliness and purpose. As men, we should find fulfillment on our own before marrying. Providing and protecting can be practiced by serving those around us.
And as I consider the loneliest period of my life, which was in high school, I remember how much I wanted to belong. Though I tried to come across as social, each night I found myself alone. Yes, I was bullied, which only contributed to my loneliness, but I was completely misguided in my attempts to fit in.
If I could just fix my pizza face, people would surround me.
If I wore the right brand of clothing, I’d be accepted into the popular crowd.
If my dad would give me the right car, I’m sure I’d get voted onto Student Council.
It wasn’t until years later when I volunteered for this organization called Young Life that I discovered the error in my ways. We would go to high schools and attend sporting events all in the name of getting to know kids. It was then that I met Mike. For all intents and purposes, Mike shouldn’t have been popular. He had none of the qualities it takes to be popular, but everyone in the school loved him. The only thing he did was volunteer and manage the football team, but he did it with all of his heart.
I’m not quite sure what brought us here from the subject of solitary confinement, but perhaps you feel your own self-condemned solitary confinement. Perhaps you’re dealing with loneliness and depression. Perhaps you just wish you could find your soul mate so you no longer feel the weight of loneliness. I don’t have all the answers, but I can say my life turned around when I stopped living for myself and began living for others.
We all come to this place through different routes, but for me it was when I gave up my life and decided to follow Jesus. That act broke my self-serving habits and turned my eyes to serving and helping those around me. Consequently, I went on to become president of my fraternity in college and Homecoming King.
To sum it up, if you’re feeling lonely, turn your attention away from trying to fit in, and look around to those in need.