“Wrong solitude vinegar’s the soul,
right solitude oils it.
How fragile we are, between the few good moments.
Coming and going unfinished,
puzzled by fate,
like the half-carved relief
of a fallen donkey, above a church door in Finland.”
Oil and Vinegar — Jane Hirshfiled, 1953
Leonard Cohen sang about the shield of loneliness. He asked God to strengthen his loneliness. Although loneliness and solitude are different they can both bring clarity and moral courage.
Jewish Jesus taught the multitudes and then escaped to a place of solitude.
Sometimes saying no to people, places and things or standing alone and doing what’s right instead of what’s easy or expedient, or feels good in the moment takes courage.
It’s also a truth of good leadership. It’s easy to misconstrue it as stubbornness when it’s really inner stamina.
Strengthening yourself with the right solitude will help you to resist temptations or activities you’re not designed to work on. It’s okay to recognise normal loneliness. Even Moses in the book of Exodus admitted he was lonely for the presence of God. It was a pivotal moment in his journey as a leader.
We can embrace this kind of loneliness because maybe like Moses, the goodness of the Lord which fills all emptiness, is about to come upon us. There’s a type of loneliness and a right solitude that can prevent us from being seduced. It’s like a shield against being busy, empty success, notoriety, or superficial social connection.
Are you getting the right solitude in your life?
Is it bringing an inner fullness?