“Silence teaches us how to speak”. ~Henri Nouwen.
My first encounter with the practice of silence was intense. A friend invited me to a silent retreat and, though I was a little apprehensive at the idea of not speaking for 2 days, trusting her, I signed up,
Ironically, the best way to describe my experience is that it was like my entire being was shouting the Hallelujah! Chorus. It was an epiphany, and I wasn’t in a hurry for it to end. When it did, I felt exposed without the covering that the ‘chat ban’ had provided, and somewhat violated by strangers’ small talk that drew me out of my inner sanctuary.
I have since endeavored to practice silence, alone and in the company of others. Both are challenging, as mental distractions seek to break the silence as much as does conversation. Guarding my thoughts and words effectively sifts which are worthwhile (and kept for later), from those which would accomplish nothing but to trespass on holy ground.
This necessity of “keeping watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3) has been driven home to me yet, still I’m constantly reminding myself. I’ve had far more regrets over spoken words than unspoken, and such a sense of relief and victory when I’ve succeeded in holding my tongue. Funny how it takes more effort to not speak. Good or bad, words create and should be considered carefully: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit”. ~Proverbs 18:21
This is great news when we thoughtfully choose our words. Then, what is spoken is life-giving and weighty, whether it be a word of encouragement, a creative miracle, or a timely wisecrack.
My challenge to myself, and to you, is to practice silence: for a day, an hour, or simply pausing and deciding before speaking. As the atmosphere is decluttered of verbal pollution, I believe we will be pleasantly surprised to discover how much more we will hear… and truly say.
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth”. ~Mahatma Gandhi
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check”. ~James 3:2