Though we are primarily considering the practice of solitude from a Christian and spiritual perspective, in this post I do want to highlight some of its general benefits.
Susan Cain (2013), in her book Quiet, notes many investors have fared better financially because of solitude. Such successful investors did not listen to the crowd but instead pored over research in solitude. Their refusal to listen to others insulated them from getting unwisely carried away (Cain, 2013, pp. 174-175). So, solitude could provide a financial guard for you against peer pressure to buy or invest in something unsound or unneeded.
This benefit may be surprising, but solitude can have many positive social dimensions and implications.
Philip Koch (1994) suggests “…solitary experiences can involve an indirect or substitutive engagement with persons” (p. 63). Through thoughts and memories we find in solitude, we encounter people, even when alone (Koch, 1994). There, in solitude, we can think and gain perspective on those relationships. These reflections then send us back to people but now as a healthier person ourselves.
Long and Averill (2003) argue solitude is a “vital social phenomenon” (p. 21), precisely because it does give room for this kind of self-processing that is key to a healthy social life. We may thus say that solitude prepares us for community (Akrivou, K., Papaloi, et al, 2011).
Better Leadership Generally
Deresiewicz (2010) has suggested solitude is a very important ingredient of leadership. How so? He argues we do not have leaders because we do not have people who can think for themselves. Without the ability to think for oneself, there is no “vision,” nothing worth following. Solitude may provide the space to develop that kind of thinking and vision.
More Ethical Leadership
Solitude can provide space for moral reflection because it distances us from social pressures (Akrivou, K., Papaloi, et al, 2011). When we get away, we have time to ask questions like, “Was that the right decision? Did we handle that properly?” We tend to ask these kinds of questions only when we escape the crowds, find silence, and slow down. Solitude provides this kind of time. And so, solitude may act as a practical antecedent to more ethical leadership by giving space for this kind of moral reflection.
Creativity often comes in solitude (Tillich, 1957, p.14). Studies have shown that alone time can be more effective for creativity and development than group time (Cain, 2013). In years past, the thinking was that groups were more creative and generated more ideas. But subsequent research has shown that groups are not as productive and helpful as people think. The only exception is online collaboration, which integrates the benefits of solitude (i.e., personal, deep work) and togetherness (i.e., synergistically combining work) (Cain, 2013).
More Focus and Productivity
Alone time can be more productive because in this time of solitude we are able to focus on the most challenging tasks that confront us (Cain, 2013; Newport, 2016). Cal Newport’s (2016) book Deep Work is an excellent exploration of this point.
Another benefit of solitude is increased spirituality (Long et al., 2003). There is a strong connection between solitude (especially in nature) and our sense of spirituality. But much more on that in the next post…
In the next post, we will look at this last aspect more in-depth. We will consider more how solitude functions as a spiritual discipline and an aid to your spiritual growth.
See you then!
Akrivou, K., Papaloi, E., Bourantas, D., & Mo, S. (2011). The sound of silence – A space for morality? The role of solitude for ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(1), 119–133. doi:http//dx..org/10.1007/s10551-011-0803-3
Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Broadway Books.
Deresiewicz, W. (2010). Solitude and Leadership, The American Scholar. Retrieved from https://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/#.VuGncpMrIy8
Koch, P. (1994). Solitude: A Philosophical Encounter. Open Court Publishing Company.
Long, C. R., & Averill, J. R. (2003). Solitude: An Exploration of Benefits of Being Alone. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33(1), 21–44. http://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5914.00204
Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing.
Tillich, P. (1957). Let us dare to have solitude. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 12(4), 9–15.