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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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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