Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Necessity of Silence

Silence is golden, or so the saying goes. You can say that, but silence is so much more.

Perhaps for some silence is unbearable. The idea of sitting still and alone in a quiet room unsettles them. This can be true for different reasons. Some are extroverts and they thrive on constant interaction with others. Social media, they are there. Facebook Live, doubly so. Meeting friends for drinks after work, they are all about that. But plant them alone on a park bench at night and they fidget. They find fulfillment in the presence of others.

For others, the difficulty arises from the reckoning that silence brings to them. Silence forces them to confront their fears, failures, or fractured past. They run from silence to escape themselves.

Neither one is necessarily wrong. The world needs extroverts. People who bring relationship and care to others. People who teach their opposites how to look outside themselves and value their fellow image bearers. At other times, life can be so overwhelming that people can only hang on by surrounding themselves with activity and conversation.

But silence is valuable. It is golden. For some, you could say silence is necessary, as necessary as breathing. Loners, introverts, solitary types; for these silence is the time when they find peace, tap creativity, think and pray for others, recharge from a draining day, and prepare to meet the next.

The difficulty is that many times, relational types, people who gain energy from talking, relating, and busying themselves; they can't understand how vital silence is. They can't understand the reason you seclude yourself in a quiet side of the house, why you silently leave a dinner party and go for a walk, why you stay up after all have gone to bed, or why the thought of going to a holiday party makes you grit your teeth.

Obviously this is very generalized. People don't fit neatly into these categories. They fall somewhere in between. But if I may, a few thoughts to help you understand us silence imbibers and how you can love us.

1) Realize that our desire for solitude doesn't equal dislike. Just because we want to be alone doesn't mean we dislike you. Often, we like being around you a lot. The reason we get away for a time is so that we can get emotionally recharged to come back and love you some more. Look at the bigger picture of our relationship and realize that over time we have been very faithful as friends, and will be in the future.

2) Realize that we love you. The need for silence does not mean that we don't need to be in relationship with you. It just means that we relate differently than you do. Now, we must choose to actively demonstrate love to you in the way you best receive it. So if that means talking, we will talk. If that means listening, we will listen. If that means spending an evening with you and other friends, we are there. It is just that those things drain us in a  certain sense. Take a moment to consider that doing those things that you take for granted are at times a conscious act of love on our part.

3) Realize that we need silence. Just as we choose to love you at times by meeting up, visiting, talking on the phone, or having you over; realize that sometimes you can love us by letting us get away and enjoy silence. If you see us sitting alone, don't feel like you always have to come make conversation. If you invite us over and we decline, don't press too hard; we might have hit our limit and need some time to breathe a little. Realize that for some of us, a day of being around and interacting with other people leaves us feeling like a sponge in Death Valley. We need some time to soak in silence.

4) Realize that God made both of us how we are. Both extroverts and introverts are made in God's image. Both of us need the other. Both of us can sin in our differences. And both of us can glorify God in our differences. So help us check our need for silence against what God commands. Keep us accountable to faithfully love others more than ourselves. Don't let us stay in solitary too long. And we will do the same for you. Be ready for us to encourage you to slow down and think about something in silence for a little while. Be willing to go on a quiet walk with us. Be willing to get alone with God for a day once in a while. Learn to value the necessity of silence. Chances are, you will be glad you did.

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