“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” – Chaim Potok
Communication as you know isn’t only in what you say, how you say it, but in your body language, and to a certain extent in your silence.
Silence, it can be very unnerving to be intentionally quiet for a period of time; we check our watches, we scan our surroundings, we pick up the odd behaviors of others and figure out its pattern, we can’t sit still for very long…and so on.
Silence is one of those things that, if we can help it, we avoid like the plague. I think that the reason why it’s so difficult to do is because our cultures are ones that don’t intentionally allow for it; sure we might have moments in our places of worship and in our times of prayer where we’re quieter but truly silent…no noise or sound whatsoever…how many of us intentionally do that on a regular basis?
I got a taste of that on a corporate level when I went to a Quaker meeting a few months ago, and while I haven’t gone back it the intentionality of silence still resonates within me. I admit, I do not do well with long periods of silence, I fidget and find myself looking at my watch all too often.
I am aware that with some religious groups there are those who take vows of silence and I shudder to think if that was something I was to undertake. Not that I don’t think that I couldn’t, but it would be akin to the “quiet game” parents play with their kids when they want some silence; the clock ticks and talking happens and there’s a feeling of starting over, rinse and repeat several times over… I wouldn’t want to break the silence if I had to undertake a vow of silence, but I know it would be incredibly difficult for me to be that quiet for a long period. It also makes me wonder, do they build up to that moment or do they just stop talking cold turkey?
Still, silence from a good place in someone’s life is sacred and noble. Silence speaks louder than words sometimes and sometimes it’s the best thing we can communicate with others when they’re going through a rough patch of life. I know from personal experience that some of the best moments of healing in my life came from people in my life who opted to sit in the silence with me rather than extend some advice to me. Yes there’s a time and a place for giving others advice provided they’re asking for it, but there’s also a time and a place where silence needs to happen for the good of all who are involved.
So with all that being said, silence was my keyword on the 21th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The One Who Is Never Silent, who speaks to us in the loudness of life but also within the silence. May we take time to sit in our own silence as well as the silence of others, to be not to do.
Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,