We learned at one time when is the right time to speak and when we should remain quiet. We also learned what sort of language to use in certain situations – appropriate language. There are different types of language for informal settings among friends, another for professional situations, another when speaking to someone in a position of authority. That was how I was taught, perhaps others had a similar education at home or school. My high school English class in Grade 10 spent a great deal of time with this idea and worked to prepare us for life situations and work/professional abilities in the language.
At home we also learned about language and the use in home environments with relatives. This was often simply how to be polite with other people; and frequently we were to be silent. One of the greatest gifts is to be taught when to say nothing. Silence is often a great tool for emphasis and reflection.
Our society has become afraid of silence. It is difficult to find pauses in conversations and music. Even putting fuel in the vehicle when music is transmitted to the pumps outside. Is that really necessary? Sometimes silence can allow an emphasis in what is said before and after. And silence allows us to reflect before saying anything. Better to allow more time in thought before responding too quickly and regretting it after.
We need silence and the quiet in our lives in order “to be”. We are creatures that are social. We interact and speak and reason together. That also means moments of silence together. If are with people that have to be speaking all the time to fill the empty space there is something wrong. And just like this, there is often non-vocal prayer. Prayer is often in the silent confines of the soul. A quiet meeting place with our God. If there is only noise or talking incessantly we will fail to hear Him.
We run with the idea that we have to be active and vocal or we might appear lazy. We need to rediscover the place of stillness, tranquillity and silence in our lives and in our world. There is a time and place for everything, including speaking and activity – necessities in our daily lives. But an important part is quiet reflection. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3,1)
We don’t need to be monastic to achieve this. But a real and marked effort to put moments of silence in our lives would be necessary. If it is simply a resolution like others that we have no intention of completing then again it will not happen and our lives remain the same. It begins with the desire for change and the “purpose of amendment” in a way that is tangible. Like any good diet or gym programme, if we avoid it or continuously put it off it will have no lasting impact.
“God is the friend of silence” said St Theresa of Calcutta. Allow silence into the spaces of life and there will a greater peace for each of us, and better conversation when it happens.