‘Made for People’: Resisting isolation, embracing friendship

Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries


I have always been fascinated by the complexity of different languages and cultures. My multicultural background included various cultures welded together, thus instilling my interest in studying foreign languages from an early age.

Grammar reminds me of mathematics — a sometimes complex set of rules that, once learned, usually make sense.

However, translating particular abstract vocabulary and sentences often leads to a loss of the depth of meaning of certain words in a foreign language. Indeed, some languages contain words whose meanings even the most thorough translations cannot accurately convey.

In my mother tongue, Portuguese, “Saudade” is one such word.

Wikipedia tries its best to explain the word in English while not entirely interpreting what I feel when “Saudade” raids my heart:

“Saudade (…) is an emotional state of melancholic or profoundly nostalgic longing for a beloved yet absent something or someone. (…) It is a recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events, (…) that cause a sense of separation from the exciting, pleasant, or joyous sensations they once caused.”

An entire paragraph attempts to explain the nearly physical pain I experienced during my first year in America 25 years ago when loneliness tried to steal a new bride’s joy.

Forty people filled the airport’s gate in my hometown when my husband and I flew to America after our wedding. I had promised myself not to cry during or after the ceremony — my feeble attempt to avoid adding weight to my family’s sorrow.

But once I waved goodbye for the last time, my husband’s arm lovingly pulling me away from the scene, the “flood gates” were open. I started crying tears that lasted months on end.

“Saudade” is something I know too well. You do, too, I promise.

This longing for someone or something you love and do not have at the moment is not easily satisfied. It breeds a sense of loneliness that cripples the human soul. And it does so because God made us for community.

In the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon beautifully translates the importance of companionship:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who fall and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. (…)”

Since the pandemic, loneliness has taken an unprecedented front seat in society. In a 2023 Meta-Gallup survey, 24% of people age 15 and older self-reported feeling very or relatively lonely, with young adults age 19 to 29 having the highest rates. These sources shed light on the perils of loneliness, highlighting its adverse effects on both mental and physical well-being.

“Made for People”

Award-winning author and attorney Justin Whitmel Earley spends most days running his law practice. But his passion, easily recognized in his writing, is to empower God’s people to flourish by cultivating life-affirming habits that shape them in the love of God and neighbor.

I interviewed Easley about his newest book, “Made for People.” The book illuminates the profound impact of friendships and offers practical strategies for cultivating authentic connections in life.

Earley’s book aims to encourage readers to resist the pull toward isolation and cultivate rewarding and lasting friendships through deliberate practices and principles. It serves as a compelling rallying cry, urging readers to invest in friendships where they can openly share vulnerabilities, provide mutual support, and experience unconditional love and acceptance. It’s a timely, practical, and insightful book for those who want to strengthen friendship bonds and fight tendencies toward isolation.

Certain words defy easy translation in the intricate tapestry of languages and cultures. “Saudade” is one such word, embodying a profound sense of longing and nostalgia that only those who know true love are blessed to understand. The pandemic may have made that longing and nostalgia something we could not avoid. But as we wake up to a new era, let us heed the call to nurture our most profound connections, thus enriching our lives and forging bonds that withstand the test of time.

To listen to Patricia’s interview with Justin, search God-Sized Stories with Patricia Holbrook on all podcast platforms or YouTube. You can find “Made for People” anywhere books are sold.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, podcaster and international speaker. Visit her new website: www.PatriciaHolbrook.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email patricia@PatriciaHolbrook.com.