Silence: maybe not so golden?

For anyone who knows me, this will not be a shocking admission:  I am a talker.  Actually, I have a hard time shutting up.  So much so, in fact, that “quick” cups of coffee with friends can take several hours.  So much so that I often dismiss my girls late from Sunday school class, for the simple fact that 45 minutes does not allow me to say all that I think needs to be said about any given lesson.  So much so that I would rather sit around in my friends’ living rooms drinking coffee and visiting than doing just about anything else.  Heck, I’m so much of a talker that I chose a professional life that requires me to talk all day.

But…

My idea of “talking” is really much more about listening.  At least, this is what I’ve noticed about myself over the last several months. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a really good thing because I don’t think genuine listening is a skill that many of us hold to anymore. You know, the kind of listening where you actually care to hear an answer to, “How are you?;” the kind of listening where time stops and all that matters is being with that person in that moment and hearing from their heart about their day or their family or their job or whatever.  I think this kind of listening is the stuff of good relationships.  I think this is the kind of listening that Jesus did.

Google image from kratik1987.blogspot.com

But…

I don’t often give people the opportunity to listen to me.  Even tonight, a friend of mine asked me about a date I had been on recently and instead of sharing my heart about the date and the guy and how I’m feeling about dating in general, I told her what we did and capped it off with a flippant, “‘It was a good time.” I didn’t actually talk about it, because I didn’t actually share with her my heart.

I think I do this kind of withholding a lot, actually.  On the way home from my small group Bible study tonight I was weighed down by trying to figure out why, and I think the reality is that I often don’t believe that I have the right to talk.  It’s a manifested combination of bad theology (a deeply rooted poor understanding of what others-first living is) and insecurities (a deeply rooted foolish belief that people don’t actually care about what I think or feel). And I know it’s becoming problematic and that I can’t keep holding onto bad theology and insecurities because I feel the pressure of the silence.  I feel it because of the knot in my shoulder and the pervasive migraines and the hard time I have falling asleep at night. So, it’s intrusive, actually.  And it’s not just intruding on my health and my sleeping patterns, it’s intruding on what I think about myself and how I interact with other people. With every word that I don’t say and every conversation I don’t have, I get a little bit angrier and little more pent up.  And like a dam that’s about to burst, I think I’m just about as filled up with all the silence I can handle.

So…

What do I do about it?  I think I start “talking.”  I mean, really talking. The sharing my heart thing, I think I do that.  Because this breeds community and because Jesus didn’t just listen, He shared Himself too.  And I’m not going to the Cross and I’m not saving anyone by talking about a date I just went on, except that maybe I am saving myself a little bit.  I think that by having the conversations I haven’t been having or saying the words that I haven’t been saying, I’m stopping this burying myself under silence and anger that I’ve been doing.  And I have to believe that by dealing with my insecurities and unpacking my bad theology, I’m saving myself from those very things too.

So, maybe there’s something to the old cliche that silence is golden. In Psalm 141, David implores the Lord to set a guard over his mouth and to keep watch over his lips (vs. 3).  And James is clear in chapter 2 of his book that the tongue is a powerful muscle that can be as destructive as a spark that sets fire to a whole forest.  We have to be careful about what we say, for sure. That’s Old Testament and New Testament truth.  But, I think there’s a reality that silence isn’t always golden. Sometimes, actually, it’s destructive.  Sometimes it creates more problems than it spares. Sometimes there is a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  And maybe when you start to feel yourself getting buried under silence, when it starts to be destructive to the building of community, and when keeping quiet is no longer reflective of Jesus’ kind of listening…maybe then it’s time to start talking.

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8 thoughts on “Silence: maybe not so golden?

  1. This is so good. I’m right there with you.

    But the thing is, you have to choose your audience carefully. Not everyone is equipped to listen well…

    1. I thought about that as I wrote, Pam. Believe me, I’m not advocating for full-disclosure with every person. But, I’ve been too tight-lipped with the people with whom I should be self-disclosing, those friends who’ve walked really broken places and who love me as much like Jesus as they can. I think they’re the right audience.

  2. I love this understanding of times to be and not be silent. There definitely are times when silence is destructive to myself and to community. There are times when I feel buried under silence, I never thought of it that way, but that’s how it feels. How true – that Jesus shared Himself as well as listened. There is a lot to think about here. Thank you.

  3. ” think I’m just about as filled up with all the silence I can handle.”
    great phrase!

    I have had to make myself talk as well…in the kind of safe spaces I think that we share. It’s scary…things seem more real and responses, other than musing, more obviously necessary to me when I genuinely give breath to the things battering me…

    I have started, slowly, to share. It has been very humbling and helpful. (Most of my stuff, though, is simply written: on my private blog, in my journal, or in email/letters that I posture toward someone but rarely send.)

    1. Kim, I have written so many letters postured toward someone, as you say, that I also never send. For me, doing that is more about getting the “stuff” that’s in my head out, and less about engaging in a dialogue about it. Although, what I’m finding more recently is that doing that too much, without also occasionally having the external conversation with someone I trust and who will love me in spite of whatever garbage and nonsense might fall out of my mouth, is unhealthy and cheats me and my friends out of having a stronger connection. And I don’t want to be a cheater.

  4. Wow, so I’m not the only one! I often feel like I can’t really share my thoughts with others because they don’t want to hear it, or it may seem like all I talk about is myself…
    Thanks for writing this post!

    1. Thanks, Marie! It’s always great to hear from someone who “gets it.” It takes away some of the lonely, self-doubting stuff that comes when we think we’re the only one dealing with an issue. So, thanks for reading this post!

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