A recent article in CBN quoted psychiatrist Daniel Amen saying, “Go back to church.”  He was responding to a recently-released Advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General which said loneliness is now a public health threat, making it as harmful as smoking and obesity to our nation. It seems that many Americans suffer with this painful secret.

The Advisory calls attention to “the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country.”  Surgeon General Vivek Murthy noted, “Loneliness increases the risk of physical ailments like heart disease, dementia, and stroke plus mental ones, including depression, anxiety and suicide.”  

As a mental health expert commenting on the Advisory, Dr. Amen stated, “I actually believe we’re on the beginning of a tidal wave of brain and mental health problems in young people, and it’s because we’re more disconnected than ever before, disconnected from our own families because when people are together their faces are buried in their gadgets.” So the psychiatrist says bluntly, “Go back to church.  Get involved.  Get involved with groups.  We have to go back.  And really, no better place to solve it than to church.”    

It is a well-known fact that loneliness is on the increase among men.  NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway has observed, “The most unstable nations in the world have one thing in common.  They have too many lonely, broken [men].”  Sociability has become a personal choice.  Younger men are not forming social bonds with real, live people.  “More U.S. men ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents than with romantic partners.  Young men are not forming social bonds with real, live people, even when it comes to sexual relationships. 

Dr. Jeffery A. Hall has noted a steady decline in time spent talking with other people.  “There are increasing efforts to cut out other people in the name of removing toxicity.  And all these tendencies are pushed forward by frictionless technologies that remove social obligations to leave home, talk to others and engage in our community.”  Dr. Hall believes we can help reverse this with “our atrophied [relational] muscles, even if there is some short-term discomfort, and even if it means encountering people with disagreeable or uninteresting opinions.” 

Men in our culture need help in cultivating  relationships with real people. Sociability is vital since many younger men are simply dropping out, while older men push through with dysfunctional relationships.  What is needed are men who can model relationship building.   Young men who express a confident, selfless masculinity make not only better husbands and fathers, they “help check other men with negative character from becoming disproportionately fatherless young men who lapse into aggression or delinquency.

My advice:  1) Learn to live emotionally transparent with the Lord,  2) Confess your sinful relational tendencies, 3) Find a male soul friend who walks with God,  4) Join or form a group of men who talk openly about their relational difficulties.  In other words, go back to church.  Find, relate to, and share with other integrated (tough and tender) men.

David was an open, transparent, and vulnerable man.  He struggled mightily in his relationships.  “I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors – even my friends are afraid to come near me” (Ps. 31:11 NLT).  But he prayed, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.  Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away (Ps. 31:9).  In Psalm 35 he acknowledges, “Malicious witnesses testify against me.  They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about (v. 11). Yet he prays, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me from their fierce attacks” (v. 17).