Why You Should Find the Good Courage to be Quiet

I’m discovering how silence takes courage.

I have a noisy life. I like to listen to music, and I like to play podcasts when I’m driving in the car. I have a newborn son who loves to scream like he’s taking his lungs on a test drive. And although I’m more introverted by nature, I do love to talk about certain things when I’m safe with trusted friends. There’s always something playing in my head, even if my headphones aren’t plugged in.

Just being alone with my thoughts is often scary. I find myself thinking about things I’d rather not deal with. I get stuck repeating memories I’d rather forget. My worries about the future play on a loop whenever they can get a word in edgewise, so I try to drown out their noise with songs and videos and inane conversation.

To be still–in both body and mind? This is an act of great bravery. It’s rebellion against the current order. Our age is taking advantage of our weakness and offering to quiet our thoughts for us: “buy this product” and “listen to this” and “pay attention”. 

We’re divided in so many different directions that being quiet is torturous to us.

Not only that, but because we can’t be quiet, we find ways to justify the lack of silence. We are too busy for our own health, and we are too “right” for our own good. 

We justify ourselves in a thousand different ways with our talk. Our mouths become a release valve for the noisiness inside. 

When I’m confronted, or feel judged, and especially when I’ve been misunderstood, suddenly I have this urge to say stuff. I want to defend myself and my interests. I want to make sure I get my side to be heard. I want to explain, explain, explain.

Without intentional quiet, we’re never able to learn how to hear. Sure, our ears are open–too open–but we aren’t really listening. We have no filter for our thoughts, and no restraint for our own interests. We’re locked in a traffic jam, laying on the horn. 

Without silence, our relationships suffer.

A long time ago, I heard a story about Mother Theresa, and it’s haunted me ever since. Someone asked her, “what do you do when you pray?”

She said, “I listen.”

After a pause, the questioner followed up with the most logical second question.

“And what does God do?”

She said, “He listens.”

This isn’t just for people who agree with her religious expression–the discipline of meditative silence is universal, even if you aren’t relating to God. We need bravely cast off from the loudest shores into still waters, and learn how to enjoy the quiet. 

In the absence of the noise, of course, there is a vacuum. And it takes diligence and structure to learn how to silence those voices. But in those times, you are tuning your hearing ability. You are learning to truly listen to the hidden songs which have been sung since the foundation of the world.

Heck, it’s a miracle to practice silence during a conflict, when all you want to do is defend yourself! But quieting down, and refusing to speak, is not intended to be a form of manipulation. Nor should it be used that way. Instead, to refrain from speaking is to refrain from judgement–and this is how understanding must begin. 

The wind will continue to howl through the trees, and the birds will continue to chirp, and the rain will continue to fall whether or not you’re listening. But as you enjoy the quiet, as you still your heart, and as you learn to listen, you become whole in a brave new way.