What a loser I was at 14-years of age and my wise father knew it. What could he do to turn me from being such a self-absorbed, self-destructive jerk? He came up with a very unusual punishment for something stupid I had done.
Dad sat me down and told me this time my punishment would not be a spanking or grounding or any of the other things they had used to get my attention. I was relieved but wondered what he had in mind. This time, he explained, my punishment would be a reading assignment. He told me about a very good book he wanted me to read, then handed me a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, the classic book written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. I held it in my hand and stared at the cover with glazed-over eyes. I couldn’t remember ever reading a book, so this was going to be a new experience for me.
He gently but wisely explained to me that I as I grew up I could develop either attractive or revolting ways to deal with other people, “ The choice is yours, ”He said, “I think you want to have more friends, right?” I mumbled a barely audible, “Yes.” He said, “Then I want you to read this book one chapter a day until you are done. Each evening before you go to bed, you must report to me what you read and what you learned from it.”
Barbra Streisand sang in her portrayal of Fanny Bryce in Funny Girl? “People who like people are the luckiest people in the world.” Notice she did not sing, “People who are liked by other people are the luckiest people in the world.” Yet that is what many lonely people think. Barbra’s lesson is: You must like people first then they will like you.
There are five realities of loneliness that every lonely person must come to terms with, and there are five actions you can take to overcome it.
The Five Realities of Loneliness
“What do you do that causes her to treat you that way?” was a question my counseling professor, Fr. Dr. Robert McEniry (Creighton University), taught his students to ask in a marriage counseling situation. The question presupposes that the responsibility for what happens between married partners is on each of them, not just one of them.
A lonely person should ask a similar question: What do I do that causes people to treat me the way they do? All emotional healing begins with self-inventory and an acceptance of personal responsibility for who you are, how you act, and what happens to you.
First, look within. Listen to what you tell yourself about yourself. If you constantly agonize over your worthlessness and your inability to make friends, you are your own worst enemy. You defeat yourself before you begin. Your very thoughts deter personal growth and the development of social skills.
T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) wrote in his introduction to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”
Which are you?