There's been a lot of talk about speaking up and/or speaking out lately. Which is cool. But I wanted to talk about something that has always gone without much celebration: silence.
Just to preemptively dash any speculation about whether this is my way of saying I don't support all the speaking up that has been going on, it is not. I stand with all the women in Hollywood who have taken the pivotal steps forward to say that Time's Up. I stand with everyone involved in the Me Too movement and will always defend and support those who have suffered from sexual harassment or abuse. I think everything that has been said and done by these victims is incredibly brave and, quite frankly, something I'm not sure I could do myself. But these events are not what I want to address.
When I say silence I mean a more every day kind of silence. Awkward silences in conversations, extended silences in relationships, general silence in any kind of social situation, or just being alone and sitting in your own silence. For whatever reason, the concept of casual silence is somewhat frowned upon in society. Rarely is there an awkward silence in a group conversation that isn't followed by someone nervously chuckling and saying, "whoa it just got so quiet ha ha" and it has somehow been deemed unusual for someone to say they spent some alone time with themselves over the weekend. I'm not sure why or how, but we've managed to make silence seem wrong or weird. This is wild to me because, man, you can find so much beauty in silence.
I'm an introvert, which often surprises people because I also have the ability to talk so much it makes your ears bleed. But something I've learned about introversion and extroversion is that it's not about how much you talk or how good you are with people, it's about where you draw your energy from. My little sister is an extrovert to the core, because she gets all kinds of stoked when she's around big groups of people. I, however, get exhausted just thinking about hanging out with people. That is what makes me an extreme introvert. I'd much rather stay home and complain about how bored I am because I have nothing to do than actually go out and do something. I'm fun like that.
I think it is because I am introverted that I enjoy silence so much. However, I don't think you have to be introverted to enjoy silence. This is why I am so desperate for other people to realize the beauty of silence--because everyone has the ability to.
I think the reason we're so dismissive of silence is because we've been trained to not go a moment without it. We are taught that we must speak! speak! speak! Even if that doesn't necessarily involve using your vocal chords. Do you have an opinion? Tweet it! Do you disagree with someone else's opinion? Comment! Did you just take a cool picture? Post it! Pictures aren't technically talking, I know, but remember that whole thing about pictures being worth a thousand words? Regardless of what form non-silence takes, it is simply the way we live in the world of instant communication and livestreams.
I also realize it must seem like I do a lot of ragging on this "world we live in." And while, yes, I do have my reservations about the way we live our lives for each other through screens and highlight reels and such, I don't see it all as only bad. I recognize that there are so many upsides to social media and the like, I guess I just only talk about the not-so-good stuff. Sorry about that.
So silence. Many of us are missing out on it. But why does it matter? Personally, I think devaluing silence is what can get us into trouble sometimes. This definitely rings true in my own experiences. The Bible says to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger" (James 1:19) and if we're getting real, I think if this was the only thing you had to do to get to Heaven, then I'd be in possession of a one-way ticket to the opposite direction. I might be an introvert, but I'm a spicy one.
Sometimes, we forget that the best thing we can do in a given situation is stay silent. We are told to speak up so often that we don't even realize we have the option to be quiet. When someone is doing something differently than we might do it, we are so anxious to point it out to them and tell them they're doing it wrong instead of letting them live their life the way they want to. Despite popular belief, we do not have to share every single thing we are thinking right when we think it. That's not normal! The fact that we can is something of a privilege, not a necessity.
Silence can be thrilling. You can learn a lot about yourself in silence. And you can learn a lot about others through another form of silence: listening. Maybe it's not so much about shutting up as it is about hearing what other people have to say. And I'm not talking about what your followers have to say. Take a step back and listen to what's immediately around you, whether that be your roommates, your family, your close friends, or yourself.
Be quiet. Listen. What do you hear?
beautiful memories created in moments of silence