Loneliness vs. Solitude

During this Lenten season many of us find ourselves in progression towards a common goal: sanctity. My route may not be the most direct, but through frequent reception of the sacraments, daily prayer and examinations, and great humility, the Lord lights my steps and shows me the path He desires me to walk. When I decide to be docile to His pleadings, I experience great peace, joy, and numerous blessings. Yet, through my own stubbornness and pride, I either distract myself by sights along the trail or am hell-bent on using my own horrible sense of direction. Amidst the stumblings and the successes one fact remains consistent, I am in a forward motion and attempting to direct my gaze heavenward. Christ, who seems to know me quite well, has recommended that I increase my frequency to the healing sacrament of Reconciliation in order to form my conscience, access needed graces, and help to strengthen my constant battles against temptations.

Although being taught that the confessor is in the person of Christ, in truth, the veiling of this mystery can be quite opaque and difficult to keep at the forefront of my mind. It has only been through prepatory prayer for myself and the priest present that I have received the faith to believe what cannot be seen; Christ’s real physical presence and absolution. Today during confession an interesting idea was thrown my way. After reading through my sins from my examination of conscience, believing myself to be finished, tears began filling my eyes and silently cascading down my face.  I decided to speak from my heart as I do so often to Christ in Adoration and prayer. Without revealing any overly personal details, my confessor asked me to consider the difference between loneliness and solitude. Below I have shared a comparison I found online from the “Counselling Blog”

Loneliness

1. Loneliness is a painful, negative state.

2. It is where we feel alone, and cut off and estranged from other people. Thus, we may feel as if we are excluded, unwanted, unimportant or unnoticed.  

3. We can be surrounded by people we know and love and still experience feelings of intense loneliness.

4. Loneliness feels like punishment or rejection. It is rooted in a sense of deficiency or inadequacy.

5. It is something that depletes us, and is imposed on us.

6. Loneliness can lead to self rejection, and even to self loathing and despair.

Solitude

1. Solitude is a positive state.

2. It is where we are perfectly happy to be by ourselves, and relish and enjoy our own company.

3. Solitude can help us get in touch with, or engage with, our true self.  It allows us to reflect on ourselves, others, our life, and our future.  

4. Often, solitude is a springboard to greater self-awareness, greater creativity, fresh insights, and new growth.

5. Solitude is something we choose. It is something that restores and builds us up.  

6. Solitude grounds us in who we are – and that enables us to reach out and give to others.

On the surface, loneliness and solitude resemble one another. Yet, after taking a closer look into the true character of each, it is clear that they have very distinct features that separate them as polar opposites. Is my heart trapped in the desperation of loneliness or is it leaning towards the solitude that even Jesus sought during His life and ministry? Am I feeling an ache that leads me to my Father or to earthly pleasures that quickly fade and never truly satisfy? Christ, through my confessor, asked me these questions and He is now posing them to you. Each of us experience this restlessness, varying of course in frequency and duration, and Jesus is asking us to join Him in the desert, in prayer and in peace.

Peace in our hearts is possible, but we must seek the only Counselor capable of granting such a gift. Join me in prayer for a transformation in heart and spirit that lasts past these 40 days and produces a viral witness that spreads to our brothers and sisters around the world.

You are so loved.

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