By: Cale Baker
4 min read
Lonely: A Public Health Crisis
Some have declared loneliness a public health crisis, and not only does it trigger engagement with pornography, but it’s also not good for our physical health. An article in The Guardian highlights that chronic loneliness is worse than being obese and as detrimental as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. But, if you talk to anyone who smokes fifteen cigarettes a day, he or she will tell you that you can’t “just stop.” Feeling lonely is an emotion that’s universal among all of us, so it’s bound to manifest itself at some point—even if it’s not present with you right now.
Loneliness and pornography are in a codependent relationship with each other. It’s by far the most common trigger for an engagement with pornography, so it’s likely that feeling lonely has, at some point, led you to loneliness’s mistress: pornography. We feel lonely, so we seek stimulation through an intimacy with a screen, and as loneliness only becomes more and more common, the cycle continues. We feel lonely, so we look at pornography.
Pornography makes us feel worthless, so we isolate ourselves. Then, we feel lonely again. And repeat.
Is Loneliness a Real Problem??
The difficulty with loneliness’s universality is its complexity, so it’s important we’re aware when we feel lonely, what causes it, and what to do with it, so that we don’t perpetuate the codependency of loneliness and pornography. What may trigger one person to feel lonely won’t phase someone else and vice versa. Sure, the feeling may come and go—and for many, it comes and doesn’t go—but once it’s here, there’s no easy way to snap out of it.
Do you know what makes you feel lonely? What scenes draw loneliness out of you and what kind of circumstances? Our recent article makes it clear that loneliness is ultimately a desire to be known, and further reflection on this sentiment reveals that not feeling known, or even feeling misunderstood, can be caused by any number of things.
Related: Mental Health, Loneliness, and Porn
Triggers for Feeling Lonely
Writing from my own experience, I know I often feel lonely when I don’t feel seen—when I have something to say, but no one cares to hear. That makes me feel like the people around me don’t care about my perspective. Sure, this trigger is a little self-serving, but it makes me feel lonely, nonetheless. Maybe you’ve had an awesome idea at work—one you slaved over for weeks or months—and then it was shot down. Maybe your spouse or a close friend accused you of not being sensitive to their needs when you were actually trying to be considerate.
These are the simpler loneliness triggers, but often, it’s heavier than that. Maybe your family was torn apart by divorce, maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a life-altering illness, or maybe you’ve lost someone (or even something) dear to you. In all of these situations, we don’t feel known, and thus, we feel alone.
Loneliness and Lust
Loneliness—this unfulfilled, deep longing to be known and understood—can and will well up inside our souls. And, knowing the emotion when it comes is important, but more than that, knowing how to process it is inextricably tied to our intimacy with Jesus. Often, however, we don’t think of it in that light. The emotion is so strong and so paralyzing that it’s easy to marry our loneliness to pornography. Pornography tells us everything our loneliness wants to hear: “Come to me — I want you. I see you. I will take your loneliness away, and I will never leave you.” Who doesn’t want to be wanted, seen, or satisfied? Especially when we’re feeling lonely.
But, as soon as pornography provides that all-too-familiar “satisfaction,” we’re lonelier than ever. We weren’t actually wanted. We weren’t actually seen. And, we certainly weren’t satisfied. In the end, we weren’t known at all.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t be known.
Jesus in Our Loneliness
So where do we go to find these legitimate needs met? Well, as it turns out, our Creator knows that we have these needs, and Jesus spoke into each one of them, showing us exactly what He says to us when we feel lonely.
Jesus, in both word and deed, breathes life into these needs:
He tells us to come to Him (Matt. 11:28). In his willing sacrifice on the cross, He tells us that He wants us. Just as He saw the adulterous woman at the well, He sees us (John 4:4-30). And, when we come to Him, He will satisfy us (John 6:35; 7:37-38). I will never leave you or forsake you (Matt. 28:20).
To be fair, it’s much more work to know these truths than it is to continue wedding our loneliness to pornography. We have to learn the rhythms of divorcing our loneliness from pornography and marrying it to the One who fulfills our needs. That involves spending time with Jesus, meditating on these truths, and from there, letting Him influence and inform our real relationships with others. When we do, we’ll know where to go with our loneliness and how to know Him in our loneliest moments.
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Cale Baker is the Outreach Coordinator at Proven Men. He studied biblical studies in his undergrad and recently finished a graduate degree in English. Cale finds himself most fulfilled when he gets to teach, read and write, and hang out with people. If he could do all of these for the rest of his life, he’d be a happy camper.