Listen to the Silence

There really is something powerful in silence.

I just came back from my American Sign Language class, where we had a full-immersion day. That means no talking, just sign, for a full 50 minutes. I love our sign-only days. Communication in sign is beautiful in its motion and its structure — how the words feel electric as they are expressed by the body. It’s also completely quiet, except for the occasional skin-on-skin sound of two hands forming a sign.

I love the silence. I’m still fully engaged in the class, still learning and participating. It’s just quiet.

While as an introvert, I appreciate silence a lot, there is also a vulnerability with silence that sometimes is not comfortable. The more we talk, the more we can control what people are thinking around us. When there’s silence, though, people are left with their thoughts.

For example, at one summer job I had I was particularly quiet because I was new and unsure of myself. But my quietness was interpreted to mean dislike and unhappiness by some of my coworkers. I had to assure them that I was perfectly fine. I just didn’t have anything to say.

Tyler Joseph expressed the power of silence in his song “Car Radio.” (It’s a little ironic that he’s talking about silence through a song, isn’t it?) The chorus and second verse say

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence
Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve
My skin will scream
Reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel
“I’m forced to deal with what I feel, There is no distraction to mask what is real.” Maybe that’s why some people hate silence. When there is no noise, we are left simply with our own thoughts and emotions. And that can be terrifying, honestly.
But, dealing with the silence — sorting out who we are and what this all is — is such a good thing.
I have had people tell me that I over-analyze things. What they don’t know is that I over-analyze the fact that I am over-analyzing! I spend a lot of time inside my head. So, of course, it’s good to get out of my mind once and awhile. But sitting with yourself, working things through, is important. And silence is beautiful. There is a reason that the phrase “peace and quiet” pair those two states of being together. Where there is quiet, there is at least an opportunity to find some peace.
So, my encouragement to you today is to embrace the silence. Sit beside someone and listen to the sound of their breaths. Walk across campus without your headphones in and listen to the sound of the wind above your head. Listen once and awhile to the music that’s buried in your soul. It’s worth the uncomfortableness.
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