It may have to do primarily with my being an only child. I have over the years wondered if being an only child leaves one feeling like we are special and unique with its consequential down side of feeling alone. It could be.
Another answer to this question comes from a recent article in Leadership Magazine. The author refers to “The Loneliness of the Senior Pastor.” The point of the article is that a Senior Pastor, read Dean of the Cathedral, lives with a strange paradox. We have hundreds of relationships with our members, can even enter one of their homes by just knocking on the door, yet most of our members tend to see us in a utilitarian manner. We are like their doctor, their lawyer, their shop clerk. If you think about it, you would notice that most of these folks are not friends no matter how often you see them. Indeed, we often need to hold folks like our doctor at a bit of a distance. The less we know of his or her humanity, the better off we feel. The same could be said of one’s pastor.
I think, however, a better explanation came from a presentation on media communication during our Diocesan Body Building Day. The speaker made this observation about loneliness in today’s world. “We make the mistake of thinking that because we have all these instant contacts through email, Facebook, and Twitter that we are in actually in relationship to these people.” To this he added, “Being connected does not mean that you are relating with these people.” What a profound insight.
This explains my recent withdrawal from participation in the House of Deputies listserv. I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with the level of communication. What I could not articulate was that I was sharing a lot, but connecting almost none at all.
I’ve known for some time that email is a poor form for many kinds of communications. Since you can not nuance someone’s intonation or voice, there is a tendency to take all email as literal communication. So, “John is an idiot” without a wink and smile attached communicates that you think that John (who has a PhD from Harvard) is actually an idiot. And don’t even move in the direction of irony. I tried an ironic statement on the House of Deputies listserv and brought down the wrath of many an accepting, inclusive, and well-meaning deputy, liberal in their interpretation of Scripture and fundamentalists in their reading of email!
So, could it be that at times I feel lonely because I am confusing all this connectedness with actually relating to someone? This doesn’t mean that being an only child or a Dean isn’t part of the formula, just that they are not the only issues in this.
So what do I plan on doing? I am taking friendship more seriously and doing it in person. How about you? Are you confusing “connectedness” with “being in relationship?”