Honor Your Solitude

by | Nov 16, 2015 | 7 Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

You keep a precious secret that you cannot fully express in words. You can only live it. It gives rise to your loveliness and dignity.

You keep that secret in a container called solitude. If you honor your solitude and dwell in it enough, returning to it regularly from the noise and pretense of world and ego, your precious secret will flourish and blossom like perennials and spill color into the world. Thomas Merton wrote,

True solitude separates one man from the rest in order that he may freely develop the good that is his own, and then fulfill his destiny by putting himself at the service of everybody else.[1]

Your solitude becomes self-indulgence only if you separate from others in pride and resentment, comparing yourself to others, never satisfied until you stand above them, but even then never satisfied, just lonely and hungry. The secret you keep makes you special, but not so much that you can uproot it from love and expect it to survive in a concrete fortress.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”[2]

Loving you, I honor your secret and embrace the mystery of your uniqueness. I join you as you share your secret through your life, and if you love me, you allow my secret to resonate with yours as deeps calls to deep.

When my solitude protects and borders and salutes yours, I not only love you, but I make peace with you. I do not retreat into my solitude to remain undisturbed by you, but I reach out to you and retain my inner quiet as I accept myself as I am and you as you are.

But love will destroy itself if my insecurity raises its voice, and your solitude threatens my self-delusions. Then I may try force you to confess your secret or reshape it according to my wishes and ideals. Abusive relationships work that way, suffocating love and demeaning us both. How often we hear of that dynamic in families, communities, and nations.

So to love you, to make peace with you, I must honor your solitude, and to care for you, I must encourage you to honor your own. Finally, Merton:

A person is a person insofar as he has a secret and is a solitude of his own that cannot be communicated to anyone else. If I love a person, I will love that which most makes him a person: the secrecy, the hiddenness, 1410661505a5epzthe solitude of his own individual being, which God alone can penetrate and understand…If I respect my brother’s solitude, I will know his solitude by the reflection that it casts, through charity, upon the solitude of my own soul.[3]

[1] Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1955), p. 248.
[2] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, trans., M. D. Herter Norton (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993), p. 59.
[3] Merton, pp. 244-245.


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