Despite our connected world-and partly because of it-we are lonelier than ever. Social media tricks us into thinking that we are engaged in genuine friendships. Yet instead of intimacy, we get little more than what amounts to digital small talk. But there is a solution.
In his book The Loneliness Solution: Finding Meaningful Connection in a Disconnected World, executive director of Crossover Cups Mission and a pastoral consultant, Jack Eason, shares practical advice as he invites readers to discover the benefits of doing life together with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Q: Jack, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: tell us a little about yourself and ministry.
"I serve ministries and non-profits throughout the United States and around the world, sharing principles for fundraising, growth and development, board governance and other areas of ministry leadership. I enjoy serving as one of the pastors at Cross Roads Baptist Church in Upstate South Carolina, as well as the 501c3 non-profit organization Crossover CUPS Mission, which has been privileged to serve the local Church and missions -related organizations around the world for 30 years. I also travel for speaking engagements with college and high school students, and the topics deal with the issue of loneliness, how we can make good friends, and the power of togetherness."
Q: Why did you decide to write a book that addresses loneliness?
"I was initially thinking about the power of community and togetherness, and the impact we can have when we work together. As I started doing research for The Loneliness Solution, my friends at Revell Publishing asked, 'Are we even really together?' I discovered we might look like we are connected, but we aren't really. I found out that the epidemic of loneliness existed long before our current pandemic."
Q: What precisely is the loneliness solution?
"The loneliness solution is finding real friendship and relationship through genuine community."
Q: In your book you talk about developing real communities, how would you define a real community?
"A real community is one that loves you as you are, and is authentic with everything. It's also a community that loves you enough to be honest with you, which is part of authenticity. When you are in that kind of community, you can be held accountable as well, which is the real key to growing as a person." Q: What are some of the obstacles in building a real community? "I think there are a few obstacles. One is social media. It's not the sole culprit, but it does provide a false sense of friendship. I can add and subtract friends at will on social media with just a mouse click. Another obstacle is a lack of trust. Most people have had their trust breached or violated, even in faith communities, so we have to learn to keep trying and to invest the time that's necessary."
Q: Because of social media, the word "friend" means little today. How would you define a true friend?
"Wow, so true. Proverbs 17:17 begins with, a friend loves at all times. I have very few 'friends' that fit this description, but I am fortunate and blessed to have friends that do love me unconditionally. I was sharing with a friend the other day that despite having close to 4,000 Facebook friends, there's probably only about 10 that I could call at 2 am if I had an emergency. That's true friendship."
Q: What do you have to say to some of our readers who are shy, introvert and find it such a challenge reaching out to others?
"I would encourage them to find a club to join that shares their interest. Maybe it's a craft or a sport they enjoy, biking, or reading. You would be surprised the friendships that might develop around common interests. One thing many have found helpful is volunteerism, and helping out with an organization that shares some of your common passions."
Q: How do you help people, especially those of us who struggle with loneliness?
"The first reminder I give people is to find the ultimate connection in their relationship with their Creator. That's paramount to overcoming loneliness. Then, you can find people that I call 'Jesus-with-skin-on' who can be the human part of connection and relationship. There are a lot of free videos, audios, and blogs on my website that can help you out at jackeason.org."