Lent and the Virtue of Silence

I hadn’t intended to keep silence on the blog since my last post about having a “Gentle Lent.” But perhaps the absence of words is fitting, in a way.

That’s one of the lessons I’ve been learning.  It’s much easier to cut back on harsh words when I cut back on words altogether. There is a temptation to try to keep control simply by volume of things said. Which can lead to nagging, complaining, and the constant droning of mom’s voice, which the the kids are very good at tuning out! With children (and in many other areas of life, I am sure), less is more.

Here’s an epiphany: I don’t have to vocalize every thought in my head! It’s part of humility, and it’s part of patience, and it’s part of self-control.

Part of being slow to anger is being slow to speak. 

I am reminded of the following proverbs:

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.
But he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19)

“He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Prov. 19:27)

James, the wisdom writer of the New Testament, puts it this way:

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) 

Sometimes the best way to reign in harsh words is simply to pause . . . and then not say anything. I’ve been trying it out. During a frustrating episode, I feel the tirade rising from within. My instinct is to let it loose on the little monsters, to let them feel the heat of my frustration and the intensity of my speech. In better moments, I’ve changed the direction of my verbal assault to be less harsh. But in my best moments, I’ve let silence reign, even for a short time.

Silence opens space to breathe. Silence opens space for my emotion to diffuse. Silence opens my ears to ear to hear the wisdom of the Spirit in that moment.

Silence lowers the rising room temperature for all of us. When the volume is turned up, it’s counterproductive to add my voice to the fray. My purposeful silence can readjust the dynamics of the situation better than my words can. More talking often equals more fuel to the fire. But silence diffuses. Silence cools.

Silence gives opportunity for all of us to reorient.

Sometimes, I don’t need to say anything further at all. I’m just so used to inserting myself into situations that often don’t even need my input! There are times just to let it go, and let the kids work things out on their own. Sometimes my silence is enough to reintroduce rational thought into the kids’ brains, and they figure out what they need to do themselves.

Other times, my silence is enough of a pause that what I would have said in the heat of the moment has dissipated, and my rational brain returns, able to handle the demands or distresses of the situation.

I’m finding the virtue of silence helpful, not only in situations that can trigger anger, but also in the general flow of our day. Less is more. More purpose in my words, and more peace in our home.

I’m learning that purposeful silence is a significant key to gentleness.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

 

Lindsey Gallant
Seeker of God in the ordinary, bearer of beautiful news, pilgrim on a life of prayer.

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