Loneliness can be destructive. Solitude can be life-giving.
I was watching a little child only about three months old holding on to a trusted adult. It was beautiful to watch.
A child finds it hard to distinguish between themselves and the parent figure. After all, they have been inside the mother’s womb for the first significant part of their life.
Then they begin to discover that they are not their mother. However, when the child is surrounded by significant adults, parents, grandparents, etc. and siblings, they know that they are loved and that they belong.
However, a time comes when questions begin to arise.
Do people really like me? Am I as good as this or another person? Am I beautiful, good looking, etc.?
Again, healthy family life, a youth group, good friendships, can go a long way to reassure the young person that they are loveable and liked, etc.
However, there is an emptiness in our hearts that no-one, nothing, can fill. Only God can fill this space. We yearn for this connection.
There is a yearning for ecstasy. At times we all try to fill this space with what cannot fill it, hence the taking of drugs, excessive alcohol, sexual promiscuity, etc.
We try to run away from the pain of not being connected.
St. Augustine says this well when he said that ‘our hearts are restless until they rest in God’.
‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest!’ says Jesus.
The more we realise that our deepest connection with our true identity is found when we are connected with God, the more we begin to value solitude as distinct from loneliness.
Solitude provides a space, a healthy space, to reflect, to find balance, to listen, to re-connect with our God and with each other as well as with ourselves and all that there is.