Loneliness Involves Absence and Exclusion
Loneliness involves an absence — it is the absence of a connectedness with others and with the self. This means that solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment for most people. Exile from one’s own country is also used as punishment and the church uses excommunication as its primary disciplinary measure, meaning that one is literally excluded from fellowship or communion.
The Communion of the Trinity
Humans are social beings. We are social not because we are descended from apes, but because we are created in the image of the Triune God. The very being of God is social as the Father loves and fellowships with the Son in the Spirit. Since the very being of God is the communion of love, our nature is designed for communion – with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. Some describe the Fall as the loss of communion with all of these.
One Can Only Truly Live in Solitude if One is “In Communion”
Being alone is not the same as solitude, as the above examples demonstrate. One might even have a sense of solitude when one is in a crowd. Those who live in a sense of solitude might even relish solitary confinement, banishment, or ex-communication. But those who live in a sense of solitude live in communion. Indeed, only those who live in communion can truly experience solitude.
Solitude with Others
Often we city dwellers get overwhelmed and fed up with our fellows and run to the country or wilderness to commune with nature. Yet people like America’s early wilderness men often fought with nature. Sometimes we run from others in order to be alone and find solitude only to experience depression, boredom, and loneliness rather than solitude. Monastic communities wisely ruled that monks had to learn to live in community before they became hermits, and even most eremitics came together on weekends to experience communion with their fellows. Sometimes we run from others in order to find communion with ourselves. The twentieth-century philosopher Sartre once commented, “If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.” We need to be in communion with ourselves in order to experience the peace of solitude. Failing this, solitary confinement will be torture.
Alone with the Alone
Ultimately, true solitude is experienced when one lives in God, in the communal Trinitarian life of God. As we live in the Son, we experience the love of the Father for the Son. We are alone with the Alone. Even as God needs no one or nothing because He is really a We (Gen 1.26), existing in eternal fellowship, so when we live in God we experience true solitude.
Christian Counseling Can Lead to Communion and True Solitude
Feeling lonely and alone, isolated from God, others, yourself, and even from the surrounding creation can give you a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. God’s apparent silence can seem deafening. Christian counseling and spiritual direction can help you to discern God’s voice in your life and to reconnect with God, others, and even yourself. Speaking to a trained Christian counselor provides a space in which you can commune with another fellow believer. With the help of the Spirit, this can make you better able to commune with others and enable you to experience a greater sense of solitude in your life. Please contact us here to find out more about what Christian counseling involves.
“At the Beach,” courtesy of skeeze, Pixabay.com CC0 Public Domain License; Man on Rock 100223819 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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