Becoming Comfortable With Silence
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Becoming Comfortable With Silence

We use silence in moments of remembrance, in prayer, because silence has power to force us to think and feel

Becoming Comfortable With Silence

For most of my young life, I've been uncomfortable with silence. I used to feel that any five to ten-second lull in conversation was incredibly awkward, and always felt the urge to say something. Having that mindset brought a lot of anxiety to something as simple as conversations: the thought in my head wasn't what other people were saying, but instead what I should say next. For a long time when I was younger, in middle school and high school, the goal of each conversation was to avoid those silences.

Needless to say, I was trying way too hard.

Whether it was on runs with my teammates or walking with my classmates in the halls, silence always made me uncomfortable. To some extent, I revolved a large part of my life around trying to avoid it and get the most out of each conversation, despite anything external going on in my life. Sometimes I'm naturally quiet, other times I'm naturally loud and can never keep my mouth shut, but silence among others always felt incredibly unnatural.

But now, I appreciate silence so much more in the presence of others. I think the true mark of a close friendship is if you can sit with a friend for hours without saying a word and have a sense of what the other person is thinking. Silence allows me to think things and gather my thoughts to make the next thing I have to say more significant or meaningful. Silence allows me to process what the person I'm talking with just said, and if it's awkward, it's because I'm going about things the wrong way. I find that the longer I pause after a friend is finished speaking now, the more insightful and meaningful the next thing I have to say is.

There was no epiphany I learned along the way - I just grew up and got older. But one thing I realized is that we use silence in moments of remembrance, in prayer, because silence has power to force us to think and feel. My physical chemistry lab professor once shared with us a triangle model often used in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It was used as a reminder to us that we felt way too stressed out and burned out by the constant need to do, every second of every day. Thinking and feeling are usually reserved for later.

Image result for think feel do triangle

But why are we silent in prayer, in moments of remembrance? How come it is in the moments of silence when we feel closest to God? Silence gives us a certain measure of control - no one influences what we think or feel. It is between us and our spiritual minds at that point in time. It is not an extreme discomfort and freezing out of the outside world, like I used to believe. Silence is what we need to understand it and take it in, sometimes.

One thing I've thought about in my moments of silence is something my friend Sarah does: think about three ways God was at work in your life today. I've written before that we witness and experience suffering and pain firsthand all the time, and this often leads us to reject faith and religion in general. In the words of Presbyterian pastor Timothy Keller, "How could a good God, a just God, a loving God, allow such misery, depravity, pain, and anguish?" But I think this is even better phrased by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: the main goal of religion and philosophy is how to tackle the problem of suffering.

But I digress. It is in these five minutes or so of silence, what some might call meditation, that I thank God every day and re-affirm my faith. I usually thank God for the various people who played a role in forming who I am today, because truly I have been blessed with incredible people. Someone told me once that she wasn't blessed with great circumstances in life, but that she found joy in the people around her and her faith. Those words resonated with me a lot, for shortly after I heard those words, John 16:20 became my favorite Bible verse.

"'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy."

Truthfully, I don't think I appreciate people fully when I'm talking with them or doing things with them. Maybe that says something about how I've been able to live in the moment better as I've gone along, but it is only in silence where you can take a step back and take perspective. Now, I'm beyond glad that I've finally been able to become comfortable with it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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