Isolation Destroys Solitude Transforms
When I have been frustrated with life or with people in the past, I would go into isolation mode. I would cut myself off from the world not wanting to deal with the reality of my life. My fantasy was to run away to a tropical island being a beach bum avoiding the world. Sometimes life can feel so hard. I have wanted to do nothing more than isolate and escape my problems.
But that has never served me. When I finally decide to come out of isolation, my problems are still there and so are the people that I am struggling to accept, including myself. Nothing has changed.
I am learning a new and healthier way to thrive in my life through solitude. What is the difference you ask? That’s a great question. They both require time spent alone, but with completely different connotations.
Isolation vs. Solitude
Isolation means cutting myself off from the real world and not dealing with it. It’s zoning out watching TV or doing something mindless that doesn’t involve personal growth. For some it may mean playing video games for hours, drinking to excess, spending countless hours at work or getting caught up in pornography. Name your addiction of choice.
Whereas solitude is spending time alone, not to withdraw from the world in an unhealthy way, but to learn more about ourselves and to hear from God. The ultimate purpose of solitude is to be a better person while resting in God.
I have found when I have spent time in solitude listening to the voice of God is when my inner life becomes strong and powerful as compared to when I check out and don’t want to deal with my reality. Isolation leads to sadness and depression. Solitude leads to peace, joy and happiness.
It’s a Mindset
It’s about a mindset and being intentional with our time alone. One is very unhealthy and one is very healthy. We get to choose how we view it. Isolation and solitude both can get lonely, but it’s what we do with that loneliness that matters.
We can use that time of being alone to play the victim and feel sorry for ourselves, which I have done plenty of times in my life. Or we can take our time of solitude to read books that inspire us, pray, meditate, journal and be still. It’s a time to be open and receptive to God’s guidance.
Isolation sucks the life right out of us. Solitude can energize us as we get more clear on who we are. It’s also a time to heal any past wounds that have been festering.
Get Still and Listen
I recently went on a four day silent retreat where I was able to be still out in nature for hours at a time. No agenda other than to listen to God and connect with my deep self. If you want your life to change, get still. Stop striving and be open to receive. It’s not easy to do as it is contrary to our nature.
I have spent my whole life trying to achieve success, to prove myself, to be perfect, to become somebody. That is a pathway to frustration and despair. When we stop trying to be somebody, we can actually be who we are. That is a very freeing feeling.
Men are especially good at isolating. We don’t know how to express our emotions or don’t feel like it is safe to be vulnerable, so we shut down. We close ourselves off from the real world, because it’s easier that way.
Spend a few days by yourself in meditation and prayer and you will find out more about yourself in those few days than you could possibly in your day to day life. Going off by ourselves may seem like a selfish thing to do, but I think it’s one of the most selfless things we can do.
Practice Underachieving In a Healthy Way
Time of self-reflection and looking in the mirror can be hard, but it is life changing. God will speak to you in transformative ways, if you are willing to stop and listen. It’s a great opportunity to stop doing and to just be. When is that last time you practiced underachieving in a healthy way?
If a silent retreat isn’t your gig, just get away for a day or two with the intent of being still and listening. Take a journal and write down what you hear. Go for long walks with no phone and see what happens. It has the possibility to transform your life.
Isolation leads to quiet desperation. Solitude can lead to divine inspiration. The choice is up to you. I want to challenge you to find a way to create healthy solitude in your life for the purpose of spiritual growth. Ditch the isolation and unhealthy habits and see what God can do in your life. Go on a journey of self-exploration. Give yourself permission to explore your authentic soul. Have fun with it. It will be challenging and it will get uncomfortable, but my experience has been profound to say the least.
It’s a lifetime’s work to get back to our inner soul and overcome our false self. We get pretty good at living a life of ego and pride. That certainly has been my story, but as I practice more solitude in my life, I am realizing that getting back to who I truly am is the path to joy and inner peace. Let’s start to practice solitude instead of isolation. You will be much happier and our world will be a much better place.
Spiritual Warrior Coach
Founder and Creator of Barbells & Brothers