Solitude can give as much to others as to oneself if it is used well. It is in solitude that I do my writing, painting , sculpture, and studies. Others have enjoyed the products produced in these sessions. However it has also been in solitude that I have delved deeply into my life experience (past and present) with an analytical (and often emotionally-charged) mind set. It is this last facet of solitude that can (ironically) contribute even more to others.
How often have people tried to encourage, comfort, or advise others with a lot of psycho-babble off the top of their heads that does more harm than good? Often such a person will refer to himself as a “people person”. This means he spends most of his time with others ( but usually in a group setting exchanging small talk over cocktails). His words come across as trite advertising slogans or 10 minute recipes for chicken liver surprise.
He is quick to point out that serious conversation of any sort tends to dampen the party or lead to dispute. He will also point out that he is always there for others and with others (unlike recluses who selfishly or shyly keep to themselves and contribute nothing). He is usually more of a talker than a listener (plainly more absorbed in hisown words than in those stoically listening to his gibberish) and even his “deepest thoughts” are usually the reflection of something he saw on some inane television talk show.
A more introspective person may take hold of each moment in time, recording every subtle nuance of pain, pleasure, fear, rage, confusion, desperation in a way that is so tangible and penetrating that he can later sense the dynamics of that experience in others (as though he were reliving it himself). When he says to others that he understands, he actually does. He can recount to them some specific moment in which he felt the same and can work with that person where they are. One must “be” where that person is before one can help him in it and through it and out the other side. Observations on his situation that attempt to help (but without this “being there”) mindlessly try to hurry up the recovery process by pasting a “happy face” on another’s personal crisis.
CAUTION – I do not dwell in the past or on negatives anymore in a way that drowns me in self-pity or bitterness or guilt, however. That is unhealthy. Instead, I have finally learned to look at an experience recalling my inner dialogue in detail with a combination of clinical detachment and genuine emotional engagement (in succession, of course,rather than simultaneously) . I have asked myself why I felt that way at that moment in time rather than dwelling in regret for not having been able to grasp the dynamics of my dilema and instantly improve it. The “why” is the key. It is as though I am a psychiatrist (myself now with a larger frame of reference and closer to the Lord receiving His precious wisdom) giving my patient (myself at a vulnerable point not yet knowing the Lord) therapy. When I can do this for myself, I can sometimes do it for others.
I do not say this in self-glorification. It is a gift from God that was a long and painful time coming. But it has come as healing to me and sometimes to others. People are different in how they react to any given situation, of course. I pray for guidance in every situation and for someone else to take over if I am failing to help someone. Still, a genuine desire to help is there if that person wants my help. I do not have the audacity to be a know-it-all, busybody in others lives. However, I would rather remain silent than give a flip answer.