Silence is Golden
In the later years of my mom’s Parkinson’s disease she found it harder and harder to follow conversations and a lot of talking made her anxious. So when my siblings and I were all together visiting her in the nursing home, she would patiently listen to us gabbing on and on and finally when she couldn’t stand it anymore she would say to us, “Can you just stop talking!” Sometimes when it was just me visiting she would say, “Let’s just be quiet.” She taught me the value of being in the presence of another person and not have to be talking. A very valuable lesson.
Silence truly was golden for my mom and it is for us because it is the doorway to living the virtues of Jesus that we have been pondering the last few weeks.
Life is a constant struggle between the needs of our ego self and the desires of our true self. A powerful tool in that battle is silencing. And guess what the first thing is that we need to silence in order to live the virtues of Jesus?
“All spoke highly of him and were amazed
at the gracious words that come from his mouth” (Luke 4:22)
This verse that describes Jesus is where we are to begin the silencing that prepares us to live fully the virtuous life we are looking for. We need to silence our words.
Silence does not mean absence of words, but rather moderation of our speech so everything we say serves some good purpose.
In his book Growing in the Virtues of Jesus, Quentin Hackenewerth, SM goes on to say:
Saint James says the most important member of our body to discipline is our tongue because if we can control our tongue we can control our whole body. So making a virtue of speaking is a good place to begin our growth in the virtues of Jesus.
Words-even ordinary words-have great power. The difference in the effect of our words depends on where the words come from inside us: from the ego-centered habits of our ego self or from the virtues of our new self in Jesus.
We develop silence of words by becoming aware of our own habits and by recognizing what is behind them. Then we “silence” what comes from our ego and let our speaking be guided more and more by the attitudes of Jesus in our true self.
How many times do we say things that don’t reflect our true selves at all? We say things to purposely make someone else feel guilty or insecure so we can feel better about ourselves.
Even our habits of talking can reflect our egos at work. Are you one who talks a lot and often? Do you repeat yourself often until you get someone to agree with you? Do you habitually interrupt? Do your words always need to get a laugh? Do you speak too little?
What is behind these patterns of behavior? How does it affect others and yourself?
There is another side to this “silence” of words. Experience has taught us that we cannot develop our speaking into a virtue without learning how to listen. In fact listening is the first prerequisite for speaking helpful words.
When we really listen, we make other people the center of our concern. Sometimes our words miss the mark because we have not listened enough to what the other person is saying. Life-giving words are born out of listening with a caring heart; with the heart of Jesus. This was the practice of Jesus.
Listening with a caring heart, speaking from a selfless heart, and sometimes just silent…no wonder He attracted crowds wherever He went.
Let’s just be quiet,