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  • Writer's pictureMona

Silence is not always Golden; or is it?

Dialogue. Both sides need dialogue. Or do they? How does that equate to silence?

What about the silent treatment, that passive aggressive behaviour? Being so mad that not saying anything speaks volumes. Or willingly burying feelings, not voicing my opinions, letting others make decisions for me then being mad at them for their choices.

The act of discerning when to speak really is an art form. I remember one friend committed suicide and his mother called to tell me the tragic news. I was given funeral details weeks ahead but wasn’t sure whether to spread the news.

I was learning new boundary skills at the time and somehow misconstrued it as too as gossip. I decided the news too tragic that wasn’t mine to share, nor did I think to ask if I could/should share it with a large fellowship, so I didn’t. In the end, I got a frantic call the night before the service from a panicked acquaintance spreading the information like wildfire. The whole community showed up in droves and the mother cried. I cried. Both for her and me. For the shame I felt. Silence is not always golden.

I still struggle with gossip today. According to the Desert Fathers, they concluded that silence is the safest way to God. ‘I have often repented at having spoken,’ Arsenius the Great says, ‘but never have remained silent.’ The purpose of the spiritual life and ministry is charity not silence I argue in my mind.

So, where does gossip fall in? Idle chatter, rumor, simple conversation. What constitutes over-concern? Tattling over being validated? The dictionary defines it as ‘casual or unrestrained reports of other people, typically including details that are not confirmed as being true.’

Silence is a self-discipline I need in all areas of life and is concrete, practical and useful everywhere. It is a tool I can carry that requires no cardboard packaging, no extra parts, and no special license. Power of the tongue versus power of silence. ‘Consider how small the fire can set a huge forest ablaze. No human being can tame the tongue’, James 3:8.

Paraphrased from Henri Nouwen, he says silence without solitude is just an exercise in futility to shake off our compulsions, quiet the chatter. Solitude loosens the threads of ‘talk’ to come back to true self, back to my rest in God, my belovedness, my created likeness. From there I can stand in woundedness, let go of my struggle for false-self to be in charge, to be with Him. Because it’s only in Him can I defeat the darkness that wants to swallow me whole and lead me astray.

I remember a visualization from a long time where I lay down on a pew bench at St Francis de Sales church in Burnaby just to be with the Lord, nothing more, just to be with Him. I stayed there a long while. That vision is still with me many years later. And I believe that is the solitude Henri is speaks of.

Silence of the heart is more important than silence of the mouth but starts there.

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