Quiet and Listening to God, Relationship with God, Self Care

Called to Quiet – Why and How to Overcome a Fear of Silence

silence

As a pregnant mother of four, my days seem to be getting louder and louder with the spaces of quiet growing fewer and farther between…. the prospects of future quiet growing bleaker still. I have never in my life craved quiet more than I do now. At least once a day I have to hide away in an attempt to escape the noise. I know many mothers can relate to this.  But, this isn’t a problem only mothers face.

A lack of silence seems to plague all of modern society.

According to the Scientific American, the average modern household has three or more televisions and Americans are typically exposed to at least 6 hours of TV per day. It has become the centerpiece of modern homes and the almost indispensable background to the majority of activities including meals and household chores, not to mention nearly the entirety of people’s free time when in their homes. Other screens seem to occupy the rest of the time. If not screens, then busyness. Constant running here and there, never enough time to even recognize the fact that there is no longer any space for quiet in our lives.

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“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

Why we avoid quiet

Silence in modern society is becoming increasingly avoided because we say we find it “boring” or “purposeless”. A “waste of time”. However, we still talk about needing an “escape” from our busy lives.

We know how to value “down time”, “alone time” and “time to recharge”.  But, how often are those times of relaxation filled with even more noise, just different noise than the noise we tried to leave behind? Different activity. Different, often even more, entertainment. All still noise, just different.

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 is 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 constant activity, we are afraid because it enables and 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! 

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vulnerability, strength quotes

True Silence

The purpose of silence is twofold: reflection and connection.

In Reflection,

we are able to contemplate more of the mysteries of our lives, more of the wonders of the universe, more of the beauty of creation, more of the impact we have had on our circumstances and surroundings and what those circumstances and surroundings have had on us. Reflection encourages us to get to know our inmost self as well as those around us better and to delve deeper into our relationship with the Author of it all.

True connection stems from reflection,

from this sudden newfound ability to enter more deeply into relationships. In true silence there is an understood openness and receptivity. A greater and deeper opportunity for mutual exchange of information, feelings, ideas and opinions. 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.

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Thus, true 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 technically letting you speak, completely disregarded everything you had to say once you had finished? It doesn’t matter whether they were being intentionally rude, or if they had been on their phone or somehow otherwise distracted.

How “listened to” did you feel??

Even though 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?

1) Exterior silence

This is the kind of silence that eliminates all exterior “visible” noise from our lives.

The biggest culprits being:

  • Technology addictions  – You know what I’m talking about – cellphones, social media, internet, television, headphones… These are the obvious culprits here.
  • Busyness – Constant activity/hobbies/projects
  • Too much “hanging out” and no deeper friendships
  • 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 silence that goes beyond the superficial.

Read also: How to Listen to God in a World Full of Noise

2) Interior Silence

“Souls of prayer are souls of great silence” – Mother Theresa

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 interest in and 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, interior silence is the sole most important key that allows us to build genuine, lasting, and strong relationships.

silence, quiet, peace, strong relationships

4 ways to cultivate interior silence

  1. Recognize that others, especially God, have something to offer and that you don’t know everything
  2. Cultivate an empathetic (not sympathetic) attitude and a desire for understanding
  3. Try to be patient and loving (But remember, compassion does NOT necessarily equal compromise)
  4. Strive to eliminate distractions when in conversations with others (in other words, practice exterior silence too – put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, make eye contact, etc)

How has silence affected your own life? What are some ways you might benefit from having more silence in your life? What helps  you foster quiet in your life? 

Read also:  Giving God the Gift of Your Presence


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