the mothering arts

The Gentle Silence…

I’ve spent a lot of time being quiet this last year.

My close friends find this nothing short of a miracle, I who blathers on, word stacked upon word. “Motor mouth” used to not even cover it.

How this change has been wrought is nothing short of a miracle either. I never used to think before speaking. It was always on, all the time, and of course, I was always and ever right, and everyone else was wrong. But something changed within me over the stretch of years, and especially this last year, and I no longer feel it necessary to fill the empty uncomfortable spaces and silences with vacuous, empty words.

It was a gradual change.

I’ve grown comfortable with silence.

I used to think that silence was loud, something to be avoided at all costs, and perhaps at the basic level, I realized that silence meant that I was not in control. If I was not speaking, someone could speak to me, could hurt me with words I did not want to hear.

What I did not realize was that by constantly word-spewing, it was myself laid bare to all comers. My every thought, every view point, laid out in Jackson Pollock-style splayed and confused but yet still so ‘there’ in all the ugly reality. There is no calling it back, wiping the dried thought off the canvas of conversation. Sometimes I’d attempt to wildly paint over with another train of words, hoping the reluctant listener would forget what I’d said before.

I’ve lived much of my adult life in constant social regret of things said. How many times I’ve had to confess and beg forgiveness for whip sharp words cracking across situations like shards of glass! How many broken relationships have littered behind.

Oh, at the time I thought I was such the right one. I was the ‘good Christian’ setting another wayward traveler aright, I was the homeschooling mama trumpeting the rightness of my decision to the absence of understanding and grace, the mom who knew better, who didn’t let her kids eat this or that…

I was the parent that thought I knew best. That I didn’t need to stop and listen to my children as my Heavenly Father heard me. I didn’t need to know their heart. I just needed their obedience.

I remember thinking that those who struggled with unemployment were just lazy and lacked the drive to succeed. Oh how I ate my words when we worked so hard to find jobs for two and a half years with nary a job in sight!

I used to half-heartedly criticize those women who struggled with depression and post partum depression as ‘not strong enough’. Oh yes. How it pains me now to think of that, after the struggles I went through myself! These women, I myself, we need grace and understanding, and someone to hold the candle of faith for us when it has fallen from our grip, for the prayers of  Aaron to hold high the arms of Moses in battle when his strength was all but gone…

But would I ever have been quiet enough to hear these things?

I doubt it.

I have been finding the virtue of gentle silence. A thoughtful, considered silence. I still speak- it is not as if I was rendered mute. But how, when, and what I speak is much changed. The biggest challenge for me has been not to rush to judgement, to stay quiet, to listen carefully. And perhaps the most shocking revelation to me, ( I of the ever-sarcastic, ever-right tongue), is there is very little I should be ‘right’ about in speech to others. I should be listening and hearing ninety-percent of the time and speaking out of the rare ten percent, and even in that- it should be a measured, thoughtful word. And it should always be in encouragement and a search to build up and not tear down. (I who used to rejoice when one of my zingers landed square upon a heart.)

This has been incredibly difficult to learn.

But in this gentle silence I have found dignity and a covering. My every self is not splayed out for all to see, my thoughts are kept in their own council, and my lash-whip-words do not fall on the backs of friends and family as they once did. I am not wild woman devoid of grace and understanding, whose tongue burns wide swaths.

Oh this is not to say I do not still struggle. Oh how I do; on a minute-by-minute basis  some days. But the victory for me has been to learn to listen and hear, to consider…to truly see others. It is a beginning.

Related reading:

“Hush,Baby” at (in)courage.

“May I have this dance?” at Evlogia

“Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Work” at Momopoly.

***And disclaimer: I think the obvious thought woven throughout is that if our eyes are truly focused on Christ, and emulating him, then all this follows. Where are you looking? To the right or the left? Or are you staying in your own lane and trusting God to navigate your little car?***

One Comment

  • Grandma Kathy

    Amen! and amen! in words what I was even thinking this morning as I had a “heart” talk with G and didn’t say much. God is good!

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