The Courage to Be Lonely

Last year, I went to therapy for a few months in an attempt to resolve some repressed grief issues concerning the deaths of loved ones. While therapy is not an easy process (nor a finished one for that matter) for the individual in therapy, it is also extraordinarily difficult for the ones that love you the most.

The theologian Paul Tillich discusses how the person that believes in God and the person that does not believe in God share much more in common than  they might presuppose. For Tillich, the theist and the atheist share an anxiety. This anxiety is one forged by the fear of meaninglessness in the world. The believer seeks to create meaning and sense of life by having faith in God. Meanwhile, the atheist attempts to create meaning in renouncing God. Both, however, are on a mission to find, create, and live in a meaningful world. Tillich found this shared anxiety fascinating and even wrote a book about it (and for those that enjoy reading, it is called  (The Courage to Be). While Morgan and I both believe in God, I think we both discovered a resonance with Tillich’s idea while I was in therapy.

We both realized that–despite being surrounded by so many people
that love you
and cheer you on
and encourage you
and believe in you
and desire for your dreams to come true–
we are lonely.

The beautiful thing about this loneliness, however, is that when we both came to terms with it and disclosed that to the other, we somehow became a little less lonely.

It’s a beautiful thing when two lonely people decide to share their loneliness.

Tillich’s book explains that courage might best be thought of as an attempt to affirm this life–our existence–despite the possible meaninglessness of it all. In the face of fear and anxiety and loneliness, courage asks us to still affirm the beauty around us.

I think sharing loneliness with one another is one of the most noble and life-giving ways to show courage. Perhaps, we may all be a little better off if we just decided to come to terms with the things that haunt us.

“Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one’s own true being.”
-Paul Tillich

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