Our silences, our words

Both silence, and words, can be selfless, or selfish. Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

What are you silent about, and what do you speak about?

We need to be careful.  Sometimes our silences are born of embarrassment, of anger, of unneccessary secrecy, of anxiety.  We can use silence for selfish reasons, to protect our superior image, or to punish others by depriving them of information they would find helpful.

It’s true that silence can be a wonderful thing.  When we use it to learn and listen.  When we use it to give others a voice, and quieten down our own greedy ego.  We have all experienced those conversations that are simply a queue of people waiting to say their words, barely listening to the others.  It can be more rare and beautiful to be among people who are prepared to remain silent, to give each other space.

And what do you speak about?

Do you use words to confirm your position in the world, to keep others under control?  Do you use them like arrows and spears?  Are you always saying ‘don’t do that’, ‘don’t go there’, ‘do that properly’?

Do you take the time to share, in words, how you truly feel about things?  It’s difficult, because you are making yourself vulnerable.  It is easier to say the usual words, to fire off a string of platitudes, to take the easy route.  But, if you feel misunderstood, or isolated, or fearful, then perhaps it is because you have become trapped in a wall of your own silence.  Perhaps there are too many things you can’t say to your nearest and dearest.  How can you expect intimacy if you defend yourself so strongly all the time?  You are like a walled castle, and you are making your friends wait outside for news of your insides.

To be careful with our words, and to be reserved in our silences – these are certainly the marks of diplomacy.  But to be mean with our words, and to make others uneasy with our silences – this can be unkind.  It is our job to find a balance between self-control and self-expression.  Without self-control, we can fall into chaos.  But without self-expression, we can become stale.

Today, what will you be silent about, and what will you speak about?  Will you try to control others, or value their contribution?  Will you try to defend yourself from others, or will you value intimacy?