Some people like to be alone, but very few enjoy being lonely. The difference between the two states was aptly explained by the existentialist philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, who said, “Our 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.”
Many people seek out solitude, whether for a few hours or many days. Periods of solitude can help clear the mind or, conversely, focus it. Loneliness is a different state of mind. It is associated with sadness, and being cut off from others. People can feel just as lonely in a crowd as they can on their own. But loneliness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural to feel lonely at times, and even people who seem to have friends and family all around them can feel alone. The key, perhaps, is to not let that feeling take control: Loneliness doesn’t have to last forever, and nor should it.
The following quotes from famous figures — including Charlotte Brontë, Bruce Lee, and Bill Murray — help present a different perspective on loneliness. So for anyone feeling lonely, read on, and realize that loneliness doesn’t have to last too long.
Loneliness is only an opportunity to cut adrift and find yourself.
— Bruce Lee
Many people need desperately to receive this message: “I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.
— Hafiz, Persian poet
Peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.
— Charlotte Brontë
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
― Maya Angelou
When I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.
— Elizabeth Gilbert, author
Loneliness is equal to the radius of one’s awareness.
— Yoko Ono
I tell you loneliness is the thing to master. Courage and fear, love, death are only parts of it and can easily be ruled afterwards. If I make myself master of my own loneliness there will be peace or safety: and perhaps these are the same.
— Martha Gellhorn, writer
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow.
— Janet Fitch, author
Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.
— Henry Rollins
When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.
— Tennessee Williams
Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they’ve got to come. You can’t force them.
— D. H. Lawrence
People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.
— Joseph Fort Newton, Baptist minister
We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.
— Dorothy Day, journalist and social activist
That little-discussed subject — loneliness. That is a great taboo, isn't it? No one really wants to admit they are lonely, and it is never really addressed very much between friends and family. But I have felt lonely many times in my life.
— Bill Murray
You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
— A.A. Milne, “Winnie-the-Pooh”
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