Eugene Cho

loneliness is the greatest disease in our society

loneliness

I agree with Mother Teresa:

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

And this is where I believe the Church can have some of the greatest impact: not just in Loving God but Loving People. And while it’s great to talk about loving the world and loving your city, even loving one another in our church fellowship & community is a great testament.  This builds integrity, credibility, and is truly counter-cultural…

But I do have some questions for you that I receive from many folks:

  • Why is it so hard to make friends?
  • Why is community so hard?
  • Why are people polite but so resistant to intimacy?

And yes, I wish I was a better practitioner of Community and not just merely a wanna be good Teacher. Last Sunday, I preached on the importance of Community. Amongst some important points:

  • Loneliness is different from being alone.
  • We are created for community, relationship, and intimacy.
  • A sense of “Loneliness” existed even before the Fall, right?
  • Things that hinder community: Sin, Judgment, Consumerism, Apathy, Empty Worship, Culture of Strangerisms

One way we can build community also happens to be one of the greatest ways we can change the world. Here’s my short explanation below. If you want to watch the entire sermon, you can do so here or check the podcast on the Quest website.

And here’s part II of the sermon on the topic of ’10 Things that Build Community.’ Here’s a short clip: ‘Water the Grass on This Side…”

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12 Responses

  1. elderj says:

    This is a great post Eugene and a critical problem. Why is loneliness such a problem in our society? I think a huge part of it is the rapid acceleration of a culture that highly values the pursuit of one’s individual fulfillment through career, delayed marriage, few children, church shopping, and even music personalization. People have been highly socialized against making the hard decision to commit to something for a long time and therefore relationships tend towards the utilitarian and ephemeral.

    Take marriage for instance. There was a time in our society when people married young and had children almost immediately. Thus they went from being part of one community of boundedness and commitment (family of origin) to another. People did not spend the large stretches of time that have become normative in our society going from family to college to another job in a distant city to perhaps yet another job and finally to some place where they “settle down” and maybe find someone and then date for several years and then maybe marry, or maybe not.

    The truth of the phrase “it is not good for man to be alone” is more and more apparent. We learn to love in the laboratory of bounded and committed relationships (like family) where of necessity we share space, give up some control, and subordinate some of our desires for the greater good. Everything almost in contemporary society works against that notion down to the fact that many children don’t share a room when growing up anymore.

  2. your friend says:

    One thing that really hits me hard again and again: We have become SPECTATORS rather than those who actively commit themselves in getting fully involved.

  3. […] loneliness is the greatest disease in our society « eugene cho eugenecho.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/loneliness-is-the-worst-disease-in-our-society – view page – cached “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair,… (Read more)“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (Read less) — From the page […]

  4. Cruiser says:

    Thank you Eugene for posting the message. It’s prefectly applicable for my small group that I’m helping to lead. We’re blessed.

  5. Jake Johnson says:

    Thanks for your thoughts here, Eugene. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of loneliness since Mark Driscoll posted his series on leadership being lonely. I think it’s not healthy to view loneliness as a norm, and I’ve personally seen the damage loneliness can cause in a community.

    I put some of these thoughts down on my post, “Should Leadership be Lonely?” If you have time or interest, I’d love to hear your thoughts: http://www.thejakers.com/god/should-leadership-be-lonely

    Peace.

  6. nlee says:

    “the greatest gift of all is to love….and be loved in return…”

    when you mention “strangerism” this reminds me of a phrase that a friend used to describe the “cold-shoulder-ness” of seattle-ites: “seattle freeze.” the question we must ask ourselves is whether we (the church community) participates in perpetuating this so-called “seattle freeze.”

  7. DanW says:

    Stanley Hauerwas speaking to the same thing: http://vimeo.com/6852490

  8. RV says:

    Thanks for sharing this post.

    It’s difficult to strike a healthy balance between isolating oneself and being in one another’s face without boundaries. I think one reason why people don’t always delve deeper into a relationship is that some people will take advantage of you. For example, I had one person, who came to my place of business after closing hours. She kept me there an hour extra just talking and wanting advice regarding her kids…it was already 8PM, and I wanted to go home and be with my family. She didn’t give me a choice to do that until she was finished. Even after that she asked if I’d meet with her again to talk, for only one hour. In my mind, I was thinking you already took one hour without my consent. I had been kind to her in the past, but it soon became clear that the relationship was very uneven. In many ways, I felt she had no regard for me at all. I think this is one reason why it is somewhat healthy to assess a person/relationship before really diving in.

    A good friend is someone who’s willing to bless others. Still, unless you’re a complete saint or doormat, it’s difficult to let it be completely one way, where you feel disrespected. It’s about setting boundaries. Perhaps, we’ve gone too far in one direction, but I don’t think it means we just jump into relationships without thought–not that any of you are saying that.

  9. […] Loneliness seems to be a theme in the blogosphere lately. Eugene Cho pitches in with some great words here. […]

  10. gregory says:

    rv- as followers of Christ we are called to pour ourselves out like a drink offering. To love the unlovable without assessment. I thank God he did not assess me!

    elderj- i have quietly enjoyed your wisdom. you nailed a few points the entire church needs to hear. the entire culture shifted dramatically while the church slept through it, or worse yet, assimilated into it rather than inform and guide.

  11. Ajushi says:

    Religious people and other pharisees throughout the modern organized “churches” are the greatest culprits of all in the crisis of deprivation for love (that is, the cause of most loneliness) in the world today.

    The true church is the Body of Christ – the Sons of God who live by the Spirit of Almighty God – not the building where a lot of people show up on Sunday, or the people in it.

    It is best to stay away from the organized church for all of the afflicted and suffering people who are in need of love (that is, the cure to loneliness), because the pagans love one another far better than the deceived religious people, and one may find the nourishment and healing needed among the true church and among pagans MUCH more easily than in the organized “church”. The real church is not the one Cho refers to in his blogs, now propped up on page one of Google searches thanks to Google analytics and all manner of self-promotion.

    This organized “church”, (that is, “Quest”) and its leadership has already been rebuked, corrected, and trained extensively on these matters and others, (though the inner knowing, which they ignore, should be enough without rebuke) but has continued on the same old pathways of vanity, avarice, and other aspects of pharisee-ism and religion anyway. This is standard in these times, though. As the Lord said, Matthew 24:12, and Matthew 7: 21-23. We see this happening today on ever greater levels.

    But the Lord can reach anyone he chooses at any time and pull them out of religion (just like he pulled Paul out), and put them to use, and this goes for Cho and any other religious person.

    If this post helps one person to be set aside, then the Lord has worked his miracles once again.

  12. Seriously Speaking says:

    Loneliness is certainly a very bad disease, especially for many of us good men and women that have so much trouble connecting with each other.

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One Day’s Wages

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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