This week, BBC Radio 2’s Faith in the World Week reported that more than a third of British adults now live on their own, the largest percentage in history. Interestingly, the survey found that those who practise a religion reported feeling lonelier than those who do not. I wonder if the degree of loneliness reported is partially influenced by how both society and the Church view the status of those who live alone, always placing the family as the ideal. In listening this week to the numerous accounts of single people’s experiences on the radio, numerous callers shared that they felt their single status is often viewed as invalid or incomplete; some described it like a stigma when compared with those in a couple or family setup.
We need to differentiate aloneness from loneliness. Aloneness is a necessary part of the human journey; at the very least we enter and leave this world alone. In terms of faith, whilst we may practise our faith often in communion with others, our faith journey is one travelled and ultimately experienced alone. Have we as a Church ever questioned the limitations of those living in a couple or a family setting? These relationships offer the potential for avoiding ever having to face aloneness, and even denying individuals from fully knowing themselves.
Finding a balance between both states of singleness and togetherness is a challenge for us all. Perhaps if we all struck a better balance then the experience of loneliness may be lessened and the state of aloneness may be enriched.