Loneliness vs. Solitude

The group of spiritual directors with whom I meet once a month recently discussed the topic of loneliness/solitude. A basis for the conversation was Donna E. Schaper‘s book Alone but Not Lonely: A Spirituality of Solitude.

The initial thought might be that loneliness and solitude are flip sides of each other, but they may instead be points on a continuum. If at the far left is loneliness and its also-unhappy relative lonesomeness, then the next point to the right might be aloneness or its relative solitariness, each of which is less desolate than the previous two. Reaching solitude requires movement further to the right on the continuum, but even there one may find gradation. People speak of enjoying solitude when all they are doing is happily not being with other people; others speak of solitude that is companionship with Spirit. This distinction between the two kinds of solitude was addressed by Joan Chittister in a nice essay in her book Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir.

The point from the Schaper book that most hit home with me was her statement: “The lack of a spiritual strategy is what keeps us lonely.” I would suggest that the lack of a spiritual strategy is what keeps us ¬†[insert any unhappy, negative word you like, be it anxious, resentful, lost, fearful, etc.!]. A spiritual strategy, or a spiritual practice, that keeps you continuously in touch with what you perceive as the Divine is the surest route I can identify for living in peace and contentment.




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