The Power of Silence and Why We Avoid It





Silence can be a scary thing, and in the hustle and bustle of modern life, we go to great lengths to avoid it. We are constantly surrounded by noise with our TVs on in the background, our iPods plugged into our ears, and our cell phones ringing again and again. There’s a lot of other “noise,” too. We have so much to do. Jobs, family, and other obligations keep us distracted with their constant thrum in our minds. We rarely give the power of silence a chance to get even a finger hold on our attention.

Why do we avoid silence?

The most common reason is likely because without the noise, we are simply left alone with our thoughts. We begin to question our choices, to think about the future, and even to become dissatisfied with the present. It’s much easier to keep ourselves distracted than it is to face the very hardest questions and realizations about our own lives.

Of course, this is precisely where the power of silence lies. By being still, we give ourselves an opportunity to reflect. We can examine our current situations and make course corrections, the need for which would never have been noticed amidst the cacophony of sound—both the literal and the figurative noise that steals our focus.

The realizations that come to us when we are silent aren’t all terrifying and negative, either. Being still allows the opportunity to recognize how very blessed we are. A quiet heart has time to be grateful and to share its abundance with others. Which brings up another interesting point about avoiding silence…

How often do we sit in silence with another human being?

Rarely, if ever.

Have you ever noticed that one of the ways people describe being in love is to use phrases like, “We can just sit together without talking.” Being silent with another person is so difficult, that when it happens, we recognize that there is a very special connection to that individual. It is, in fact, one of the most intimate things that we do.

Many people avoid being silent because they fear it will harm others’ opinions of them. Take for instance the class clown who always feels the need to get a laugh or the nervous interviewee who stammers and rambles rather than becoming silent after answering a question. We often become nervous when a silence is perceived as being too long, and we feel the need to fill that void.

Of course, “filling a void” is precisely what we’re doing when we surround ourselves with constant noise and chatter. By talking, we are proving our worthiness. By watching TV, we are avoiding letting our thoughts wander. We blog, we Twitter, we text message all day long. All of these provide ways for us to avoid silence. We don’t focus on our own shortcomings, or perhaps even more importantly, our desires.

Avoiding silence also allows us to avoid thinking about what we want and what we don’t have. Again, it’s filling a void that many people feel when they don’t have the things, feelings, or relationships that they truly desire. It takes silence for us to turn inward and examine our desires. More importantly, it takes the power of silence for us to create a path to attaining those things. If we remain distracted, we don’t have to think about the things we don’t have, but we also don’t develop a plan to manifest them.

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