Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
“Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” Paul Johannes Tillich
Last week, I explored the potentially negative effects of smart devices on relationships. Today I will focus on the relationship benefits of solitude. In the February 11, 2017 edition of The Economist, which I cited last week, the following quote makes an interesting assertion about solitude.
“Technology has enabled people to fill every moment of their lives with a stimulus of one sort or another. It has eliminated the boredom of solitude, replacing it with a continuous need for instant gratification. Or rather, as Tristan Harris, a former product manager at Google, puts it, it is technology companies that have made this trade for humans, designing platforms, games and apps to keep them hooked.”
It is not uncommon for people to dislike solitude, particularly in the West. Perhaps some find solitude boring because they live as “human doings” rather than “human beings.” For these individuals, solitude equates to doing nothing, which is not good for a “human doing”! In any event, people are designed to be relational and seeking solitude does not come naturally. In fact, this reality drives the creation of social networking platforms.
However, seclusion is not necessarily boring or without benefit. Rather, it is what we make of it. Throughout my business career, I have had to make a number of major decisions involving strategy, people and money. Because of the way I am wired, I like times of uninterrupted thought. To this end, I chose to isolate myself from others for a period of quiet reflection when facing such decisions. By giving careful thought to identifying and assessing alternative courses of action, I was in a much better position to evaluate the recommendations of others on my team.
Solitude is not boring; time alone is necessary to refresh and refocus our body, mind, and spirit.
Psychologist Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter validates the foregoing in an article providing six reasons you should spend more time alone. Number four is “Solitude provides time for you to think deeply. Day to day responsibilities and commitments can make your to-do list seem as if it has no end. This constant motion prevents you from engaging in deep thought, which inhibits creativity and lessens productivity.”
The foregoing is a psychological assessment rather than a spiritual one. According to the Bible, solitude with God is a highly commendable practice. If one does not believe in the existence of God, this assertion is, of course, irrelevant. However, if one knows God or is open to knowing Him, solitude has great benefits. From personal experience, being alone with God both refreshes me and refocuses me.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). This is my challenge to you, dear reader. Make time for solitude. Persist. I am confident that in the stillness you will hear from God.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.