Mother Teresa once said the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible form of poverty. She also described loneliness as the leprosy of the modern world. She piercingly put to words what nearly 40 percent of American adults admitted to feeling in a 2010 survey, up from 20 percent in the 1980s. Our culture is increasingly becoming one of isolation, anonymity and a sinking feeling of being unloved and unknown.
Connie Kinder, a Christian therapist in Nashville, says 85 to 90 percent of her clients wrestle with loneliness. She works at a local counseling center that offers affordable services at a sliding-scale rate, while also running her own private practice. No matter her clients’ socioeconomic status, loneliness is something that touches all people, she says. “Oftentimes, the symptoms can be anxiety, depression, or anger, but as I narrow it down to the core issue, it usually centers around the pain of not being connected relationally.”
The Prevalence of Lonely People
Although loneliness is something the vast majority of people wrestle with, hardly anyone wants to openly address it, says John Ortberg, a Christian author and pastor of the multi-site Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in the San Francisco Bay Area. “People will readily acknowledge being too busy because that makes them sound important,” he says. “But to say ‘I’m lonely’ is kind of like saying ‘I’m a loser,’ and nobody’s going to like a loser.”1