How can gratitude dissolve loneliness?
By Elaina Simpson, C.S.
During the pandemic especially, I’ve had patients inquiring more about loneliness. People have asked about this before the pandemic too. So, I thought this would be an appropriate topic for tonight. Here we go, thanks for joining me!
In my own experience, I've found gratitude to be a helpful way to counteract feelings of loneliness. It helps fill thought up with Good, God, with the blessings in our lives. This is about magnifying the Good in our spirituality, rather than trying to change or trying to fix a challenging mortal situation. Our perspective shifts and this blesses in tangible ways!
Loneliness may feel personal to you. ("There is something wrong with me, it's because of this change in my life, it's because of x, y, z...") But, loneliness is actually just an impersonal argument that suggests to thought that we are not God's spiritual creation; That we experience emptiness, lack, separation, or that God, Good doesn't fill our lives. A suggestion might come to our thought and suggest subtly, "You are cut off from Love." Meaning, there’s lack, or that one could be missing something. There are a lot of "things" or suggestions that try to make us feel cut off from Love... This may present itself in the form of sickness, relationship challenges, a hard day at work, general loneliness...etc. No matter how that "liar" (as Christ Jesus referred to these unhelpful suggestions in thought) tries to argue, we find that handling loneliness is just as important as it would be to handle other challenges--- Since it's the same liar arguing that we could be cut off from Good!
We don't have to take the bait that we are cut off from Good, no matter what’s arguing!
Mary Baker Eddy (spiritual thinker, healer, discoverer and founder of Christian Science) wrote something so helpful on this topic. You can tell it was written from the heart, as many of her early life experiences would point to the implication that she most likely had to pray about loneliness! I love what she learned, "Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth. Friends will betray and enemies will slander, until the lesson is sufficient to exalt you; for “man's extremity is God's opportunity.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 266:6–15) I have asked in prayer, How do I know that this 'seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love?' And the answer has always been, in gratitude!
I remember a time when I felt tempted to feel a little cut off from Love. I was immersed in work. Changes in my daily schedule and routine had left me more alone than usual. I knew that it wasn't about praying for more human interaction, because I know that human interaction will never be enough to fill a seeming void. So, I didn't pray to get love. I prayed to witness more of the Love all around me, to have opportunities to give it, to share it, and to express it. Expressing gratitude and love started with me that day in my backyard. So how do I do this when I’m alone? I thought. I was alone, but I could feel gratitude for all God was gifting his creation-- Even with no one else there! In gratitude for the Good already around me, I noticed that the beautiful trees were tall representations of big, sturdy, Life-filled ideas... The birds were singing. I cleaned up my yard and beautified it a bit in gratitude for the space. [Side note here, I found more meaning to hymn 430 where it says, “A grateful heart a garden is…” (Christian Science Hymnal, 3:1)] I wouldn't say I got it 100% right in my implementation of this gratitude. I had to work at it a bit. Later on that evening, I thought about gratitude again, especially for that day. In gratitude, I suddenly became more aware of something that would have usually gone unnoticed. I had a sweet interaction with a neighbor that day. I realized that while I was alone working on my backyard, a neighbor had walked right up to my fence to introduce herself. Wait a second...Right when I was working on loneliness, someone had walked right up to my yard and talked to me?! How did I miss that!? How perfectly aligned those two events were, I thought, as I reflected on the day. Love was right there, even when I seemed to not feel much of it. Remembering that interaction in my evening gratitude had me feeling so loved! In Christian Science we learn that God is All and in all. So that neighbor, was really expressing God’s Love. I felt it. Gratitude shifted my perspective and magnified the good in my own thoughts. In moments of gratitude, we see all the ways divine Love is right there, saying "I love you, you're not separated from Me." That newfound understanding helped bring the following verses to life in my consciousness:
“Man is not absorbed in Deity, and man cannot lose his individuality, for he reflects eternal Life; nor is he an isolated, solitary idea, for he represents infinite Mind, the sum of all substance." (SH 259)
“Truth and Love come nearer in the hour of woe, when strong faith or spiritual strength wrestles and prevails through the understanding of God.” (SH, 567:3–6)
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing." Psalm 68 5-6
If you feel lonely now, know that there are others reading these ideas with you, that are praying on the same thing! You’re not, and cannot truly be alone! Especially with God being all Good and everywhere. Including right where you are. :)
So if loneliness ever feels tempting, it’s just an invitation for gratitude-- To feel our oneness with God, Good and to let it fill consciousness! Love is all around. _____ For updates on future posts, you can subscribe here.