I got to thinking about solitude, aloneness, loneliness, isolation, apartness, and privacy. Each has some unique difference. Sometimes it is a matter of choice, sometimes it is enforced. Each reflects some positives and some negatives. I will reflect on only two: loneliness and solitude; the others fall in place.
No one of us was made to be alone for long. At creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Loneliness is an unwelcome separation from human interaction. It is often separation from a specific person. There is acute loneliness and there is chronic loneliness. It is similar to a disease without physical symptoms. One can suffer with loneliness if it has not been chosen. It is a bleak sensation within one's self. It is as if one is walking alone through a world of other people's friends. One can be lonely while surrounded by a crowd of noisy people. Sometimes it is a temporary condition with a ready exit. The door out is a genuine concern for other people. Lonely people tend to feel sorry for themselves; they spend their time “gazing at their own navel.”
Solitude is a chosen form of isolation and is more positive than negative. Simply because one is alone doesn't mean that one is lonely. Some people are natural solitaries, content and at peace with their own company. Writers, artists, and composers require more solitude than most. They need time to think, to ponder, to reflect—creativity blossoms in solitude. It is not to be avoided. It is a healthy environment within which both depth and growth come to the human spirit. It is not usually associated with sorrow but with happiness.
It makes a good deal of sense to practice solitude often, especially during the prime years of life when noise and activity are the norm. One needs time for quiet reflection or else the traffic of life can overwhelm. We are social by nature and there must be a balance. But I bring a better self to meet and live and be with others when I come to others out of the experience of solitude.
Best of all, I can find God in solitude. Through the ages many men and women of faith have turned to solitude. Something deep in the human spirit yearns to be alone with one's Creator, to be in communion with God. Especially to listen to God in silence. We become aware of eternal things in solitude. God is there in our loneliness too, waiting for us to open the door to Him. We must invite His presence. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” the Scripture says.
I am not alone in my solitude. Out of my solitude rises prayer for others—those I love, those who have gone before, all who have ever lived, and those yet to come. They all are Yours, Lord, they are somehow here with me when I am with You. In Your eternal mystery, we are part of one another.