There are many forms and reasons for silence. Here are three for your consideration:
The first is silence that we allow ourselves. In the chaos of daily life and content at our fingertips to fill a million lifetimes, increasingly we seem to leave less time to just sit in silence. When we quiet our own minds we give ourselves the gift of self-awareness and openness. The word inspiration comes from a latin term meaning “breath into.” From our silence, the world enters. My own silence allowed me to notice and appreciate the majesty of a bald eagle soaring above me yesterday on my walk home. From silence this morning, came the idea and words you now read.
The second type of silence is that which we grant others. Twice this week, someone sat in extended silence across from me as I unburdened a month’s worth of pain and stress. I did so without any expectation of sage advice but with the hope that I would simply be heard. While their voices were silent, their eyes said all I needed to hear. All that is required to grant silence to another is our presence and our humility. To make sure others know that we are here for them and they are not alone.
The third type of silence is when we withhold our voice despite its necessity. In this powerful and haunting rendition of the song, “The Sound of Silence” – the lead singer from Disturbed reminds us “Fools, you do not know, silence like a cancer grows.” When we fail to break our silence to call attention to those in need it is a sin. Whether it is an unconscious sin of omission or a conscious one of commission is almost irreverent – as both spread with equal effect. In the wake of yet another school shooting this week, I was reminded that several weeks ago, I saw this powerful exchange on gun control between Jon Stewart and a gun rights advocate. My intention was to share it. Yet I did not. Much like I often fail to when faced with issues of great importance and potential division. There are many reasons why I or others fail to speak out on a whole host of society’s ills. Fear of retribution, overcome by hopelessness, unwillingness to confront the darkness of humanity chief among them.
I don’t consider my own silence often. Although in doing so today, it becomes obvious that I could use more of the first two types noted above and considerably less of the third.
May we all choose our silence with greater intention and more positive effect – for ourselves, for others and for the whole of society.