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 we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory) May our hearts break for injustice and exploitation - whether abroad or in our own backyard. Spending a few days for @onedayswages in Thailand. Along with one of our board members, I'm traveling with a group of 10 others to learn, listen and visit a few NGOs including one of our partners, @thefreedomstory. Couple days ago, we spent an evening walking through Soi Cowboy. On a given night, about 10,000 people are in the ring of prostitution in Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong. Much of this is driven by the consumer demand. Approximately 70% of male tourists go to Thailand for the sex industry.

Human trafficking is complex. Anyone that says otherwise is lying or selling you something. 
To reduce it to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.

When people speak of human trafficking, they tend to be ‘attracted’ to the issue of sexual exploitation. Dare I say it, human trafficking has become trendy as a justice issue.

Clearly, it’s evil and egregious. But to reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful. Because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to not only combat sexual exploitation but engage in issues of poverty, forced labor, commercial exploitation in tourism, land rights and power abuses, organized crime networks, cultural and economic realities, etc.

Oh, it's so complex but we have to be engaged whether in Thailand or in our own backyards. May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God... More thoughts to come.

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