Libraries used to be quiet places to study and read with minimal distraction. Not so anymore. At least, not at my local public library. People are on computers watching videos without using earphones. Others talk on cell phones at conversational volumes. Some use the library for meetings. Even patrons looking for books and the librarians shelving them talk as if they were in their living rooms.
On a hike through the woods, others listen to radios without headphones. In their homes, many people have the television on most of the day “for noise.” Then there are those who believe they cannot fall asleep without some sort of white noise.
Less and less silence exists for many people and seeking it out — even in places where silence used to be common — is becoming increasingly difficult. More and more people seem unable to exist in quietness, and most don’t think that’s a problem.
Many people avoid silence because they don’t want to hear their own thoughts. Some want to avoid the nudge of their conscience or the Holy Spirit. Still others simply don’t want to think about their problems or process their feelings because doing so is often so very difficult.
Sometimes, silence is avoided because of an addiction to entertainment. Often, it’s a habit of laziness or apathy that leads to existing without thinking.
Unfortunately, avoiding silence eventually has serious negative impact. By not spending time with our thoughts and processing our feelings, we often end up letting culture dictate our thinking and our behavior. The result of avoiding silence is, usually, an uncontrolled thought life.
Not valuing silence often tells us a lot about our belief systems. It can also tell us what’s important to us and what we are trying to avoid.
The Need for Silence
We need balance between the noise we encounter and the silence we seek. Certainly, a completely silent and isolated existence does not create a healthy mental or spiritual state. We need connection. Our culture is not one where many people live in too much silence, though, and too much noise often lies at the heart of many people’s chaotic lives.
In all the noise, we often miss out on a crucial path to balance that only silence can provide. We need silence to:
- Connect with our deeper selves.
- Process our interactions and the ideas.
- Sort the information that comes at us constantly in our busy and noisy world.
- Grow as individuals.
“Creative engagement with our internal processes allows us to discover more of who we are, to take in previously hidden aspects of ourselves, and to reconfigure ourselves, if we so choose. This is what allows us to be more deeply authentic in the present moment.” (Bob Edelstein, “The Power of Silence”)
We need silence to be who we were made to be and to do what we were purposed to do. There is tremendous benefit from regular silence, including in our discipleship and in our spiritual growth.