Are There Benefits to Being Alone?

Are There Benefits to Being Alone?

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Feeling alone can be a big frustration for singles, but there can be advantages to the times in our lives when it’s just me, myself and I. In “The Perks of Solitude” Debra Fileta writes about the things she learned during an intense time feeling alone. 

"1. We struggle to be alone because we were not made to be alone

"I remember feeling so disappointed in myself for struggling with loneliness. I wanted to be a woman who was independent and strong. I wanted to resist the urge to 'need a man' and have the ability to stand alone.

"Looking back, I judged myself needlessly and harshly. The truth is we struggle when we are alone because we were never meant to be alone. God made us with a strong desire for relationship and a need to connect with others.

"2. Our search for validation has to start with us

"Why did I feel so uncomfortable being alone? I think part of it came down to the fact that I wasn’t really comfortable in my own skin. It’s as though I needed someone to tell me I was fun, smart, beautiful and worthy.

"True value, worth, identity and affirmation must come from within. There is a God who witnesses our lives when no one else does. There is a God who is intensely aware of our every move because He is so darn in love with us that He just wants to know. He is keenly aware of us, because we matter. Because we are valuable. Because we are worthy in His eyes.”

I would add a few notes to the author’s thoughts. First, there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Singles probably tend to spend more time alone that those with a spouse and/or kids. But loneliness is something everyone experiences and isn’t conditional on having people physically present in life. You can be lonely even in the midst of a crowd because there’s no one who really knows you.

Second, being alone can be a valuable time of communion with the Lord if we let it. A time of solitude, and the silence that comes with it, creates space for God to speak in ways we might ordinarily miss. Rather than filling the space with the noise of social media, movies, TV and music, just being still and drawing near to God can be a benefit when we find ourselves alone.

Third, the only way to know you’re OK with being alone is to be alone. As Fileta reminds us, looking for validation in other people only leads to eventual disappointment because that’s a role they weren’t created to fulfill. Learning to find your value from your Creator can be one benefit during a season of being alone. And while different personalities and temperaments need more alone time than others, I still think that everyone can benefit from a little bit of solitude.

Have you benefited from being alone and embracing the solitude you found during that season? What did you learn? 

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  • --I think everyone should live alone for at least a year or so after they leave their parents' and before they marry and/or cohabitate. Here's a helpful hint from an old married guy: Make the absolute most of your alone time, because in most cases once it's gone, it's gone! If you want to stay up until dawn reading on the night before your day off of work, do it! Want to throw a change of clothes and a toothbrush in your bookbag and hit the road for the weekend? Do it now!

    Once you are married, you have to answer to and plan around the other person's work, school, and social schedules. Once kids are in the picture, forget about it. I wouldn't trade my kids for anything, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss being able to have a little bit of complete and total solitude once in a while...even just long enough to use the bathroom without hearing a "Daaaaad!?" through the door would be awesome.

  • --"Are There Benefits to Being Alone?"

    Not too many, at least compared to those who aren't alone.  Lower life expectancy, higher risk for depression, greater variance in financial security, the list goes on.

  • --There's also a huge distinction between being single and being alone.

    I have friends who won't go away and (sometimes annoyingly so) insist on still being involved in my life. I have two great roommates (one of whom is thankfully single again after nearly two years in an awful relationship). I pay a premium to work out at a gym that emphasizes its community.

    I am single, but I am not alone.

  • --One should realize that time to be alone allows you to maximize whatever it is you put your energy into; this is why Paul advises that it is better to remain single than to marry, but better to marry than to burn.  If one can focus on a God-centered/Christ-centered life, and can continue to grow in sanctification while single, you will have less of an opportunity to do this than you will when married.  Further, you will be free of responsibilities.

    On a simpler level, take a skill like programming or engineering: There is a great joy in the creative exercise, which the master programmer or master engineer knows becomes ever more fleeting if he works in a business or industry, as he will be invariably be put over managing people and will long for that isolation when he could work at his craft without being bothered.  (I remember hearing Chad Knaus talk about how he dreamed of getting to the track on race weekends so he could put HR briefs and employee evaluations behind him and get a wrench in his hand.)

    If you look at somebody who was a real party girl like Debbie Harry, even she has said recently that she used to seek fulfillment in the crowd, but it took her a lifetime to learn to be content with herself, and now wouldn't trade what she has now.

    Still, one should remember that there is risk all abound, and remember what the teacher said in Ecclesiastes 4, and seek to balance self-focus by being part of a community, preferably a self-governing and independent community of believers.  One can definitely overdo it and become destructive or idle, or set up oneself as an idol.  One need not find that community discussed in that passage in marriage necessarily (God's institution has suffered mightily as the scions of a once good thing have made a mockery of it).

    The shibboleths about living longer and healthier once married are funny, as they are long discredited but still float around: Even Psychology Today in a 2009 blog as well as hinted at even at an About.com summary this year: The idea that singles live shorter lives on average than marrieds is a game of sloppy definitions, grouping "singles" in those studies as single never married plus divorced plus widowed/widower.  It is these two latter camps where there is the real pain and suffering of existence, depression, shortened life span, and other misery.  I've been trying to find a study I read that had the take away, at least of men, happiness survey, single was about an 8, happily married was a 10, but the road to divorce and divorcedom was a 1.  Solomon told you that this was the case as well - a good wife is a treasure, a bad wife (they had no woman-initiated divorce then) is the worst possible thing.

  • --Obvious typo: more is less.

  • --For the first time in my life I'm spending an entire summer away from my home and family.  I have an awesome job working at a Christian camp, but there certainly are times that I feel homesick.  Plus, I've seen several of my friends start dating recently.  But God has taken this time and used it to show me that all I need is Him.  In the past, I've relied on my family and friends to offer me emotional support, but now I am "forced" to come to God with everything I'm facing.  As I enjoy His Presence, everything else becomes secondary and I realize that He is the Desire of my heart.  Instead of searching for fulfillment in people, I am being challenged to live fully in Him and abide in His love. (John 15) He is more than enough! :)

  • --I really miss my alone time lately.  As someone who was single for years, I embraced my Saturdays of seeing no one and revelled in the moments of quiet.

    Singles need to be wary of becoming too comfortable with being alone if they hope for a spouse and family in the future.  I have a lot of selfish habits that I'm currently trying to undo!  

  • --As GrinAndBarrett said, HUGE distinction between the two. I was alone essentially all of the time growing up, courtesy of home-schooling and parents working all the time to make ends meet. Needless to say, it was extremely harmful, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But it did teach me to be how to be comfortable alone and that friendship is one of the most important things in the world. Having close friends makes me feel a lot less lonely and desperate for marriage. No, it's not exactly the same, but it fills the void well, and everyone needs friends whether they are married or not. I am open to marriage or to staying single, whichever happens. I think I can be content if I never get married, but I absolutely cannot live without friends and a dog. :) Besides, then I wouldn't have to worry about whether I need to marry a guy who wants kids or a guy who does not want kids, and what if one of us changes or doesn't change our mind down the road.    

  • --I want to travel while I still can, but I have few resources for traveling.

  • --Dreamer Guy, there's always hitch-hiking. And if you get picked up by and OTR trucker, maybe he'd let you sleep in the truck.Wander around. Take odd-jobs for cash. Sleep in youth hostels or homeless shelters. How much do you want it? You know, if you pull it off, you could probably evangelize a lot of people and gain some confidence.

  • --This is encouraging :)

    My first big struggle with loneliness was after going away to college, and that time was definitely what God used to draw me to Himself whole-heartedly.  I had believed in God since I was a kid, but didn't love Him or feel my dependence on Him until that alone time my freshman year.  He really does use the hard and lonely times in our life for the most profit!  As a side note, one thing that really helped me during that time was praying out loud.  It helped me to focus, and hearing my voice break the silence was also good.  It was sort of a wake up call, reminding me that God is actually real and present and listening.

    After years of having good roommates, I'm finding myself in another "quiet" season after several friends got married or moved.  This post was a good reminder to not be lazy or fill the time with social media, but to turn it into fellowship with God instead.  Thanks Ashley!!

  • --Perhaps one of the advantages of being comfortable with yourself, in solitude, is that wherever you go, there you are.  If you're "you" wherever you travel in the world, you might not feel homesick at all when alone overseas.

    But one thing I notice is that there are some things in travel that are designed for two people, whether airline seats in first class, or the way so many hotels charge the same price for a room regardless of whether it is one or two occupants.  It may not be safe for women to travel alone in parts of the world where a man alone might be OK.

  • --"But one thing I notice is that there are some things in travel that are designed for two people, whether airline seats in first class, or the way so many hotels charge the same price for a room regardless of whether it is one or two occupants."

    This is the worst when booking a cruise.  The single occupancy rate may not only be twice as much as for a couple but actually BE MORE.  The reason being is that money is made not just on the room/travel itself but on all the "extras" a person may buy: drinks, massages, gambling, etc.  If one only person is spending on those things rather than two, the travel company loses money.

    Yeah, singles get screwed pretty badly in that regards.

  • --MikeTime:

    "Yeah, singles get screwed pretty badly in that regards."

    As do dating couples who would prefer not to share a room.

  • --"As do dating couples who would prefer not to share a room."

    Color me clueless, but I'm not sure what you mean by that.

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