I’m an introvert. I love being alone and doing things independently. I like to bike by myself, run by myself, and go to the movies by myself. Solitude recharges me. But being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like people.
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I’m an introvert, but I’m also human.
We need friendships. From a biblical viewpoint, humans are created (and re-created) for and through relationships. And while the extroverts are nodding in approval, the idea of practicing silence and solitude may horrify them. You’re not alone. While I enjoy time by myself, it does not make me, or other introverts, natural at practicing silence. It’s work and requires me to discipline myself in different ways.
The danger of alone time
Left to my own devices, I would fill my mind and time with things I want to do. That’s not always a bad thing, but if 100% of my time is about me, it can produce greater selfishness than I already naturally produce.
Peter Scazzero says,
“We need to be alone so we can listen. With the hectic pace of our lives, the incessant noise of television, radio, computers, music, and our overloaded schedules, it is no wonder the ancient path of silence and solitude is lost to most believers in the West. But we must take the time.”
Scazzero identifies my challenge. I like to be alone, but I often fill time and my mind with noise and activity instead of being still and listening to what God may want to say.
Sociologist and psychologist Sherry Turkle shares the relational benefits to silence and solitude:
“In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. When we are secure in ourselves we are able to listen to other people and really hear what they have to say.”
Two significant advantages of silence & solitude are we get to
- hear from God and
- our inner person/voice is strengthened and fed so that we can offer more of ourselves to others.
Both focus on receiving so that we can give to others—evidence of our wiring for relationships.
Sounds great, but how do we do this?
Here are four ways to practice silence and solitude:
1) Set an alarm for 5 minutes
I have a (mostly) daily habit of reading the Bible. But I’m vulnerable to reading for the sake of completing the task rather than listening for what God wants me to hear. So when I finish reading and writing some reflective thoughts, I set my phone alarm for five minutes and practice silence. I sit still and invite God to speak to me. There is plenty I have to learn in practicing this discipline, but even in this simple form, it forces me to slow down and focus on listening.
2) Don’t touch that dial
Just as I’ve developed the habit of putting on my seatbelt in the car, I’m also quite adept at turning on the radio when I drive. But sometimes I choose to use the time to be quiet and listen. “God, is there anything you want me to hear or know or do?” I don’t do this all the time, but it’s more fulfilling than talk radio, listening to commercials, or changing stations in search of the perfect song.
3) Stay unplugged when exercising
I enjoy listening to music or podcasts when I workout, but sometimes I choose to exercise in silence. Doing so gives me time to think, listen to God, and pray. I only do this about 25% of the time, but when I do, I find I am sharper, more creative, and more tuned-in to what God may be doing in and around me.
4) Put yourself in the story
After reading the Bible, stop and put yourself in the scene. How would you respond as one of the characters—or as an observer? Go through the story again in your mind and pray through it. Imagine being there, asking God to direct you. In what ways does the story speak to a current circumstance?
Help! I’m an extrovert and process better with people.
Fear not. Here are two thoughts for extroverts:
1) Choose any of the above, but “share space” with others
Practice silence with a friend or two in the same room or area. After a designated time, debrief the experience with them. You get the best of both worlds: solitude and community.
2) Practice, practice, practice
It won’t be easy or natural for you. Be patient. Start small. Set your timer for a minute and work your way up. Keep a pen and pad near you so that when thoughts and ideas flood your mind—and they will–you can write them down instead of trying to remember them. After writing a quick note, return to practicing silence. It will feel awkward at first, but give it time. Silence is a new muscle that needs exercise.
God has wired us to be in community, but practicing silence and solitude is one way to grow our relationship with God and prepare us for relationships with others.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What has helped you practice solitude? Or, what is keeping you from trying?