Solitude and seclusion. Being alone; being lonely.
These are two extremes that I have been learning the differences of in the past seven months. In my estimation and experience solitude is a normal part of my day where I spend time just trying to be quiet and calm in an attitude of prayer, meditation, and devotion. I think that this practice is vital for my spiritual formation and health and that it aids in my capability to minister to others. Our relationship with God is vital to maintain on a daily basis and to encourage others to do the same.
The flipside of being alone is the unhealthy concentration of time spent void of the presence and relationship of other people in seclusion. As human beings we were created for relationship with God and others. Relationship could be defined as simply as “an interaction between two or more members of the same species” (Conville & Rogers, 1998, 3*). Although I would say that relationships are the intentional act of knowing and acknowledging another person’s potential for fulfilling their purpose as one created in the image of God. The problem with relationships is the fallen world we live in and the painful brokenness of every life that has had the blessing of breathing fresh air.
In my experience there are times when secluding myself is a defense mechanism, but in other times I feel my seclusion is my prison in large groups where I can be in a group of people and still feel lonely because the hopes, fears, and potentials that we could be encouraging others with is replaced by talk about the weather, media, and politics. I don’t think that every conversation has to go to a super-personal level, but if the majority of your conversations leave you feeling lacking then take these few steps into consideration:
1. Recognize what topics and things you discuss with people are.
2. Choose people that are close to you for sharing your deeper level conversations with.
3. Reciprocate friendship and listening to those around you, it may open up opportunities to create new or deeper relationships.
In my life and ministry context these have been things that are important for me to balance because I have the tendency of going too deep or sounding very shallow, sharing information and feelings with people who might not value what I am sharing with them as much, and having one-sided conversations. I believe that the longings we have to be understood are amplified by those who are younger because they are too immature or inexperienced to know how to communicate and operate within these recommendations. I am hopeful that as I continue to live in relationship with others and minister to youth and college-age students to utilize these principles and for others to imitate them and have better, healthier relationships with friends, family, and God.
*Quote taken from The Meaning of Relationship in Interpersonal Communication, edited by Richard L. Conville, and Lilian Edna Rogers.