“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing”–[William S. Burrows]

Silence is incredibly loud.

Part of me feels I must perpetually fill the silence with noise. I will admit, I am—for the most part–a loud person. It takes much more effort for me to sit still and listen to someone than it takes for me to open my mouth and voice my opinion. Ask anyone.

I monologue about my passions (IJM, Peter Pan, the Gospel, politics, my generation, etc. etc.). I give sermonettes. I constantly discuss my plans to anyone who will listen (this is more for my benefit than theirs–I process verbally). I plan my life while talking. I speak a mile a minute with particular friends. I rarely have a phone conversation shorter than 25 minutes. I am told when I visit home that the conversation at the dinner table increases by 45 percent.

(For the record, all my verbal communication is not necessarily clear or well put. In fact, it hardly ever is.)

You could say that I don’t know how golden silence is. And that would be true. But let’s face it…

Silence is awkward.

Think about it. I am missing out on a large percentage of social clues for how to respond in a situation if there are no words.

Take driving in a car, for example. There is nothing worse than driving with someone you hardly know. You ask polite questions of a general sort–nothing too personal. They answer, ask a few of their own, then…silence. You find yourself in an awkward position. Do you conjure up another question? Do you wait for them to ask a question? Do you decide the time for talking has ended and ask to turn on the radio? Do you pretend the silence is comfortable and stare mindlessly out the window? You wonder if this person is annoyed with you. You wonder what they’re thinking. You imagine they have said all they’ve intended to say and you are afraid to break the silence lest you offend them. It’s the worst.

Then there is silent communication, which is equally dreadful. Have you ever listened to Spotify and thought that your friends are secretly trying to communicate something to you via the music they are listening to? I do constantly! It’s like they’re speaking in code and it’s up to you to decipher the intended meaning. It is awful, because then you’re worried that the music you have playing communicate something unintended and potentially offensive. Maybe I am just paranoid. Likely I am. But this sort of silent communication is awful. I generally resort to a private listening session.

See, words are powerful. I’m a Communication major, so I’m supposed to say that. But that doesn’t make it any less true. “Through words we build our world.” But silence can be powerful too, and it has a power words can never posses.

Silence means I’m listening. Silence means I’m thinking. Silence means words fail me and all I can do is show love. I once wrote that it is not enough to speak of great things; one must actually do them. Sometimes the best best thing to do, is say nothing. As much as I talk, I would also hope I learn when to be silent as well. 

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