“Silence is golden,” goes the song.
If silence is so golden, why do we fill up our world
with so much of the junk of noise?
The Noise of Our Modern World
We often want to get away from all the noises in our lives. There are the noises of city life, such as traffic, trains, and the sirens of emergency vehicles. If you live close to others, there is the noise of people talking, sometimes arguing, and even partying. We often select our own “noises” in the form of television, stereo, and radio. Some of us have noisy kids or noisy neighbors, or even noisy barking dogs. With the advent of cell phones, people can call us when we are at home, in our cars, with others, or busy with other tasks. Sometimes the tasks we do seem to cry out for our attention. And often our noisy thoughts make the most noise of all, telling us what we should do or haven’t done. They accuse us, distracting us by their incessant talk.
All this noise often adds up to stress. Stress creates confusion, anxiety, a sense of feeling overwhelmed, and easy irritation. We find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time. Some sociologists argue that the noises of modern life contribute to the increased violence in our society.
An Uncomfortable Silence
And yet a part of us now gets bored when these noises disappear. A few years ago I drove two hours to watch a movie called Into Great Silence. This mostly silent movie focused on a year in the mostly silent life of Carthusian monks in France. Although the theater was packed at the beginning, only a few people were left by the end. They had apparently become bored by the silence: instead of engaging in sex and violence, monks merely pray, cook, chant, and grow food, with some occasional community play.
The Atlantic recently reported a series of experiments from the University of Virginia in which individuals who were asked to sit alone and in silence for fifteen minutes. When left with a button they could push to shock themselves, a quarter of the women and two-thirds of the men chose to shock themselves up to 190 times rather than sit passively in silence.
We have conditioned ourselves to love stimulation and when this does not occur according to our own needs, boredom, acedia, and apathy set in.
Silence can be scary. Silence confronts us with an emptiness: there is no sound. Silence is not usually defined as a positive thing, but rather as the absence of sound. When we don’t have external noise, then we are faced with our own internal noise. And these thoughts, emotions, and desires are often not ones that we want to face directly.
Christian Counseling Can Lead Us into a Healing Silence
Noise pulls us away from ourselves, forcing distraction upon us. Silence clears the storms and we are able to gaze down deeper into our souls, our character, our meaning, and our personal center.
This is where silence can be healing. Christian counseling offers you a silent space away from the distractions of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” so that the soul can meet itself and can find God within the self. A Christian counselor or spiritual director will help you to face your fears of silence, and to enter into a deeper and healing silence where you can better hear God’s workings within the events of your life.
Photos“Sound Wave Background,” 100280927 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; “Rainbow in Lake,” 100106786 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net