Silence. Stillness. Quiet. Something that all parents crave.
We tend to underestimate the power of silence. We live in a reactionary society. Americans are rebellious by nature and vocal because our country was founded on revolutionary protest. And I love America for this.
However, visionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi possessed a type of enlightenment not often thought of as powerful tool. Silence can also move mountains. Silent sit-ins at the lunch counter that declared “whites only” was a powerful show of civil disobedience that helped change archaic laws. More recently, silent die-ins of the Eric Garner protests create powerful imagery of civil disobedience in action. Silence spoken through action.
Those are macro examples. Now, I want to take this post to the micro level.
Sometimes I get so revved up by the perceived injustices in my life that I want to shout it from the rooftops! Often, little changes. I just feel more stressed, my heart races, and I fall into negative, crazy-making thoughts.
“It’s me vs. them.”
“No one understands!”
“Why don’t they see that this is important?”
My father, g-d love him, is an atheist and staunch conservative (yes, he’s a little confused). We clash at the dinner table over politics, religion, equal rights, economics, social services and preserving “American golden-era” traditions. His inflammatory remarks, echoed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News, push every liberal button I own. We can get into pretty heated arguments. But nothing speaks louder than a disappointed look and a heavy pile of silence. He shuts down his diatribe as quickly as the words were uttered.
Positive emotions are so hard to hold on to. We are assaulted by media sensationalism on a daily basis. But what does name calling and hateful speech really accomplish? I argue, very little other than passing the negativity forward and breathing new life into hate.
Love in silence. I disapprove of my father’s positions, but I love him nevertheless. I remain silent when he reacts so that positivity in our relationship can slowly shuffle back into place. I act through my silence by leaving the table. I have sent him a powerful message that my words fail to do: I disagree so much with your opinions that I am physically removing myself from your attitude.
I take the same position with my ex. I haven’t spoken to him in a year. We speak through a mediator. My silence speaks volumes. It communicates that until he changes his behavior in productive ways, we won’t communicate. Communication is not just about words and body language, it’s action or lack of action (which you can argue is, in fact, intentional action) that reinforces my values and beliefs of unacceptable behavior.
I am trying to reach enlightenment through careful contemplation, thinking before speaking and responding with good intentions.
To be clear, silence is not turning a blind eye to injustice or applauding apathy. It’s an alternative to the hate mongering, defamation, and words without action.
Silence requires thoughtfulness in action rather than empty, negative speech.
At the end of the day, light always prevails over darkness.