As a society, we love to talk about what lonely people are doing wrong. Some of the advice that people give is productive and well-intentioned, but, today, I came across a quote that I absolutely disagree with. The quote was by Joseph F. Newton, who said “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.”
The problem is that this is exactly the kind of statement that sounds obvious, but, is ultimately untrue and unfair.
The basic argument here is that people are lonely because of the way that they interact with other people. If lonely people would just stop shutting themselves away from the world, they would have plenty of friends. If they would stop closing other people out of their lives, they would be welcomed into meaningful friendships with open arms. If only it were that simple!
It is absolutely true that there are psychological components of loneliness that go beyond our relationships with others. But, most people who are feeling lonely are not intentionally shutting people out. Instead, they are suffering from changing social circumstances.
These changes, including divorce, family relocations and ending careers cause loneliness. As we reach our 60s, these challenges become increasingly difficult to deal with by ourselves. If we are not careful, it is easy to fall into a negative spiral.
People who are feeling lonely have enough to worry about without thinking that they are pushing others away. This is only rarely the case.
Instead, we should encourage people who are feeling lonely to focus on activities and passions that will make them happy.
We should give them opportunities to meet like-minded people who share their interests, values and personality.
Do you agree that the idea that lonely people are pushing people away by “building walls” is an unfair stereotype? Why or why not? Please join the discussion below.