Called to Quiet – How to Cultivate Meaningful Interior and Exterior Silence
“It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
This quote can be life changing if taken to heart…
Silence in modern society is becoming increasingly avoided because we say we find it “boring” or “purposeless”…. however, the real reason we avoid silence is because we are scared. We use our constant flurry of activity to hide from what we don’t know. We hide behind busyness and noise because it is easy to control. It feels safe. It feels easy to hide behind what we do, so that we are not faced with who we are. We are scared that, if we give ourselves time to be quiet, we will be forced to reflect, to notice things about ourselves, our lives, or our relationships that might need to change or improve. Once we are no longer distracted by or hidden behind noise and/or constant activity, we are afraid because it encourages a more genuine connection with those around us. We are afraid because silence opens us up to vulnerability.
But vulnerability and connection are what make us real. They are what make us human!
The purpose of silence is connection. In a true connection, there is a mutual exchange of information, feelings, ideas and opinions. This requires communication, dialogue, a true give and take between both parties. This is why silence consists of two parts, both interior and exterior.
If you think about it, when was the last time you felt you had something important to say, yet the person you were speaking to, while letting you speak, completely ignored everything you had to say once you had finished? It doesn’t matter whether they were on their phone, distracted by the television, or simply thinking of something else. How “listened to” did you feel? Even if the other person was technically “silent” while you spoke, how much connection was there? How truly silent were they? How truly silent are you if you do this to someone else?
True silence implies a sense of openness and receptivity. It is not just the outer appearance of quiet but cultivating an interior openness as well. It is only with the latter that silence becomes meaningful and valuable.
Technology addictions are one of the leading factors in our inability to find and appreciate silence in our lives. You know what I’m talking about – cellphones, social media, internet, television, headphones… These are the obvious culprits here. However, there are even more types of “noise” in our lives. For example, constant activity/hobbies/projects, too much “hanging out”, too many substances (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, medications, drugs) anything that can cloud our mind, our vision, or our focus and distract us from what really matters.
The first step to discovering meaningful and purposeful silence in our lives is to slow down and cut out some of the external stimulus. Without eliminating some of the “noise” in our lives we won’t ever be able to discover the beauty of the beauty of the silence that goes beyond the superficial.
“The heart is our ‘hidden center’, beyond the grasp of our reason…It is the place of encounter” (CCC 2563).
Silence is so much more than a passive rejection of distractions or a simple refusal to speak. In fact, the reason silence is beautiful, desirable, valuable and even life-changing, is because true silence has an interior, active, purposeful and fruitful element as well. Interior silence is a demeanor. It is a quiet like Mary’s in the Bible who simply “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2: 19, 51). Although she speaks, her words are few, although she is silent her presence is powerful. Interior silence is an attitude of openness, of humility, of genuine concern for the other person. It is an attitude of listening, of being attune to what is outside us that allows us to connect to ourselves, to others and to God. Because of this is the sole most important key that allows us to build genuine, lasting, and strong relationships.
Comment below how silence has affected your own life or ways you think you might benefit from adding more silence into your life… or maybe consider sharing something that has helped you to live true silence or feel free to ask for help implementing more meaningful silence in your own life.
Read also: Giving God the Gift of Your Presence