Learning about what solitude is and is not has been enjoyable and beneficial to me.
In his book, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen explains solitude as, “The movement from loneliness to solitude, therefore, is not a movement of a growing withdrawal from, but rather a movement toward, a deeper engagement in the burning issues of our time” (p. 61). It is interesting that Nouwen does not always define solitude as being alone. Often he defines solitude as something that can happen with others.
When Thomas Merton is talking about nonviolence in Bridges to Contemplative Living he informs us of something that can also help us experience solitude proposing, “The Christian will do his part in creating these conditions by preferring love and trust to hate and suspiciousness” (p. 21). Preferring love and trust helps to draw us closer to others. It might mean we get hurt from time to time, but that is part of the journey of being a Christian and walking with others in community.
Thinking about this topic more leads me to realize that maybe we can experience solitude while around others if we are comfortable with ourselves in our own skin. If we are comfortable with who we are based on God’s image of us, maybe that allows us to be at ease and to experience solitude while in the company of others?
Question: What does solitude mean to you?