The show today is a flashback to one of the most watched sessions of the 2022 church Mental health summit with Joon or as he is known online J.S. Park
J.S. Park is a hospital chaplain, published author, and viral blogger. For seven years he has been an interfaith chaplain at a 1000+ bed hospital that is designated a Level 1 Trauma Center.
As a chaplain, he has the privilege to be present with people during the most intimate moments of life and death.
His session for the Church Mental Health Summit is titled The Grief of Loneliness, Disconnection, and Walking Away.
This is a powerful talk that moved me to tears. I can remember a time as a social worker when I sat with people in their homes or spoke to them on the crisis line or in the hospital and I felt the weight and privilege of walking with people through some of their most challenging times.
I’m sure most of you who are listening can relate to that feeling. Being in the room during a very pivotal moment. When someone breathes their last breath. Chooses to reconcile their relationship, or when someone receives a diagnosis.
It’s in those moments when you can put words to it or not, you realize what an honor it is to be a helper, and caretaker support during some of life’s most challenging moments.
Joon speaks to this in his talk on loneliness.
You see loneliness is a universal feeling. It does not discriminate between age, gender, culture, or class.
We have all felt loneliness.
And while loneliness seems to have increased there is still a stigma attached. People are embarrassed to be lonely. If you have ever shared with someone that you have felt lonely it’s likely that you were met with the response that you need to meet more people. Find some friends, and join a small group. But it’s not that easy.
Loneliness is more the absence of people. It’s the absence of connection.
When I speak to churches about building care ministries one of the first things I say is that care is more than casseroles. Care is creating cultures where belonging, purpose, and hope flourish.
These three things, belonging purpose, and hope, are core needs of every person.
And looking at the first one belonging. This is addressing loneliness.
While your church can’t meet every need people have and can create a community where people feel like they belong.
Inherently whenever there is talk of loneliness there is the comment about someone can feel alone in a crowd. And this is true. I think most of us have felt like that. This experience reinforces the idea that loneliness is more about the absence of connection.
In his talk, Joon, addresses the two types of loneliness, subjective, and objective, and how we as supporters and ministry leaders can address it.
He states that there is a high rate of loneliness among the Gen-Z and Millenial generations. Young adults are twice as likely to report loneliness than older adults.
LET’S TALK ABOUT LONELINESS
- Loneliness can cause physical and mental health issues
- There is little discussion about loneliness. It is not highlighted as a mental health issue and it can be embarrassing for one to express that they are lonely.
- There is a rise in false solutions like toxic masculinity and conspiracy theorists for instance Andrew Tate as well as hate groups.
2 TYPES OF LONELINESS
Loneliness is the mental and emotional anguish caused by relational distress. J.S Park highlights two types of loneliness:
1. Subjective loneliness
This is where you have people but you still feel alone.
CAUSES OF SUBJECTIVE LONELINESS
- Drifting wavelengths where you start growing apart from people due to distance or change in opinion. J.S Park says scenarios like racial discrimination have led to subjective loneliness among people
- The inability to be authentic leading to failure to be honest with yourself about what your stand on a matter is. This can cause deep loneliness because you find yourself staying in communities where you cannot express yourself.
So which is better? Lonely with others or with yourself. The truth is whichever you choose you are taking away years of relationships with others.
IS THERE A CURE FOR LONELINESS?
It is only in creating clear boundaries for those who are subjectively lonely that being unseen is unbearable.
It is the right type of being alone that can ironically lead to less loneliness. The opposite of loneliness is not being with fewer people it is the courage to be left alone, the courage for deep disruptive intimacy even if it means being alone.
The cure is to be able to express yourself and check with yourself about whether you need to leave that community or draw boundaries.
2. Objective Loneliness
Each of us may eventually come to be alone due to different reasons like abandonment, age, social distancing, and church abuse among others.
On a long enough timeline you may end up being alone and this is the tough reality.
We interface with a lot of people who face objective loneliness online or every day as we commute and yet sometimes what they do need is an intimate stranger.
The intimate stranger is a listener who is distant enough that they cannot judge you but close enough that they will be present and available to you. Someone like a therapist or chaplain.
The intimate stranger is especially needed for people facing objective loneliness.
In Japan/South Korea, there is a concept called Rent A Stranger where you hire an individual to be with you during events of your life like graduation or dinner, and what is required of them is to be a listener.
This is not a cure for loneliness however these a mid-road companions who can create a life-long community.
Most times for mental health professionals who are seeing dozens of clients this is part of their work routine while for their clients these may be the only people they get to have deep-hearted conversations with.
J.S Park says he believes God sees us in a similar way as if we are the only one and when you become that intimate stranger you give courage to those who are lonely to find community.
We are witnesses to people’s loneliness and even if we cannot completely heal loneliness there is power in being seen.
Together we are alone and the “we” make the difference.
CONNECT WITH J.S. PARK
CONNECT WITH HOPE MADE STRONG
Join the Church Mental Health Facebook Group! In the Facebook group, we chat about how to care for others, and what are your challenges as well as share tons of resources. This is a great community of pastors, clinicians, and those with lived experience and we want to get to know you.