Are You Afraid of Being Quiet?
Being Quiet is Powerful
“Sometimes you need to sit lonely on the floor in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it drown in the noise of others.” — Charlotte Wriksson
All right, everyone! I am here to air a pet peeve of mine and I wonder if others feel the same. I hate being in restaurants that have televisions blaring.
Not only is it annoying, but it makes conversation more difficult while competing with the added sound, not to mention the distraction it is for any discussion.
If the restaurant is a sports bar, I can see having a screen featuring football playoffs; that’s one of the main reasons people go there, to watch the game.
Other restaurants do not serve the same purpose but these attention-seeking screens are plentiful.
People do not limit these blaring large screens to restaurants; I can see them in airports, elevators, the lobbies of doctor’s offices and even near the gas pump.
I have speculated about why the owners feel the need to include these in the ambiance of their establishments and I suggest part of the reason is that they know many people are afraid of silence.
As I tested my hypothesis, I looked for additional evidence that shows our culture has shifted from the quiet to the noisy.
Music in stores has always accompanied me when doing some shopping.
I have visited in homes where there is earsplitting sound pouring out from some video game and part of the draw to professional sporting events is the exciting loud tempo of music, voice and even dancing.
I wonder if athletes today would play half as well if it were silent in the stands.
Many of the above examples of clamor are understandable.
Studies have shown that Christmas music playing in a store encourages shoppers to buy more items.
Sound accompanying a video game in progress makes it more exciting.
Using upbeat sounds, be it voices or music will increase the heartbeat of the listener and encourages him or her to take part on a much more energetic level.
But what about when you’re in your own day-to-day space? Why do many of us still try to avoid quiet and seek sound?
My observations have provided me with a few theories.
Why do many people wish to avoid quiet?
- Avoiding the quiet can make me feel less alone.
I know someone who has the television going in her home all day. She has stated it makes her feel less lonely.
Just hearing the voices of other human beings fills a hole life dug into her heart. Without these voices, the quiet would remind her of how alone she feels.
2. Avoiding the quiet can provide the “feel good” dopamine when life doesn’t always provide it.
There have been many occasions when I have used careful consideration in choosing music to listen to at the end of a day which has been trying and, sometimes, even painful.
As I sit back on the sofa and listen to the smooth sounds of Michael Bublé, the dopamine communicates to my brain, this is “good” and I ought to have more of it flood my system.
This produces a good feeling, one the circumstances of my day cannot conjure up.
3. Avoiding the quiet can keep me from having to deal with some difficult realities.
4. Avoiding the quiet enables me to also avoid dealing with the difficult realities of life.
If other thoughts and feelings occupy my mind, it distracts me from more painful realities.
The more sound there is, the harder it is for my troubles to take a front seat in my mind.
These reasons we have to avoid the quiet are understandable but I would like to suggest distractions can cause us to miss out on the great power within the quiet.
The Power of Quiet
The power of quiet can help prevent you from feeding negative emotions
When considering this component of the power of quiet, I am reminded of a quote by Marquis de la Grange who said, “When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.”
We want others to agree with our ideas and actions when deciding and I think this is also true with our feelings.
When I am charged up about something that rubbed me the wrong way, I play charged music, rhythmically “agreeing” with my reaction.
If I’m wounded and upset, watching a movie where difficulties wound someone else can be an indirect way of justifying my feelings.
What I didn’t realize is in seeking an emotional, musical or visual “accomplice,” I am missing out on the power of quiet.
Or, better yet, I sought these things out to avoid or deny the power of quiet.
The power of quiet enables me to act rather than react to difficult circumstances.
In quiet contemplation, I am confronted with the heart of whatever the issue is I’m struggling with; it brings me head-to-head with it.
In the quiet, I can reflect and challenge any part of my thoughtful processing. If each idea is solid, I can build on this confidence and make a profitable plan of action.
If I find I am wrong in a situation, I can choose the best way to make things right.
The power of quiet enables me to act rather than react to difficult circumstances.
Using the power of quiet helps emphasize certain points you want to communicate to others.
During the school day, one of the most powerful classroom management tools I have, as a teacher, is being silent.
In the three-plus decades I have worked with teenagers, using the power of quiet gets their attention.
Part of the reason is that many teens amplify any important points they wish to emphasize.
In contrast to this, making a simple statement, such as, “The use of swear words often show a poor vocabulary,” and following it with silence, makes a larger impression on my students than any heated confrontation over the issue.
I have also noticed if you are a person of few words when you do say something, people give it more consideration. There is power in the quiet.
God Encourages the Power of Quiet
Growing up in the church and having attended only Christian schools, I frequently heard the phrase, “Just give it to God.”
I desperately wanted to do this when difficulties came my way but no one taught me how to give something to God.
The power of quiet teaches this lesson.
The first line of Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God,” but as is often the case, the translation from the original language loses some essence of what the Psalmist wrote.
The original phrase, be still, comes for the Hebrew word, רפה râphâh, which means for a person to be so relaxed he can let something fall, especially from his hands.
This is a complete, relaxed turning loose of something you have been attempting to hold.
Be still. Be quiet.
In being still, God is admonishing us to stop all the worrying, raging, over-planning, and talking.
It is in the quiet when we can remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness to us; for His making all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
This quiet can also bring relaxation to our bodies and spirits; a relinquishing of all that disturbs us to God’s capable hands.
This mindful discussion within our spirit and with God thrives in the quiet. God, Himself, demonstrated this in the Old Testament book of I Kings.
God Demonstrates the Power of Quiet
I loved Sunday school and vacation Bible school as a child. The stories of the people of the Old Testament were my favorites, with Elijah being one.
I remember how he holds a showdown with Ahab and the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18.
Both the prophets and Elijah make altars and place the sacrifices on them and one at a time, called on their god to light the fire.
My heart beat in anticipation as the prophets called out to Baal all day with no answer.
I remember how Elijah douses his sacrifice with 12 jars of water, calls out to God and God answered with a fire so powerful it burned up the sacrifice, wood, stones, water and soil.
Elijah must have lived on the adrenalin of this event for days yet his exhilaration died quickly. In the very next chapter of I Kings, it seems we read about a different man.
In I Kings 19, Elijah gets word King Ahab wants to kill him.
(I remember as a child thinking it’s no wonder; Elijah’s God indirectly made Ahab look foolish.) This sends Elijah into a downward spiral and he winds up sitting under a tree asking God to take his life.
This was hard for my young mind to understand. How could someone who had taken part and witnessed the dramatic events of the day before ask God to take his life?
As an adult, I understand better. I know what it’s like to give my all and then, wilt when strong adversity comes my way again.
God patiently tends to Elijah’s physical needs and then, while Elijah was resting in a cave, a series of natural disasters come his way.
First, a powerful wind (perhaps a tornado) came roaring by, wreaking destruction. Next, there was an earthquake and then a blazing fire.
These came upon Elijah and vanished. The author of I Kings 19 tells us several times (verses 11–12) God was not in these things but then God used the power of quiet.
In I Kings 19:12, we read after all these loud, destructive things, God’s whisper came to Elijah. Elijah needed no one to tell him this whisper was God’s voice; he knew it and covered his face.
God used the power of quiet to admonish, comfort and instruct Elijah. Elijah would have missed the message had he not been quiet.
I have often wondered what encouragement and/or instructions I have missed out on because I refused the power of quiet.
Being quiet has many benefits and you should not fear it. The author of Ecclesiastes 3:7 said there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” May we have the wisdom to know when to be quiet.