A forced silence bears fruit

A forced silence bears fruit
A Parent’s Perspective

I was suffering from laryngitis recently and needed to rest my voice for a few days to give my vocal cords a break. It was an unusual occurrence for me which I found quite challenging. In my family, we’re all very talkative and love to chat at length about every topic under the sun. This sort of regular discourse and discussion was also a key feature of my childhood years. In school, I was never in trouble much but, if there was anything I was called out on, it definitely was connected to talking too much. Extended family gatherings are always lively affairs with a lot of competition to be heard and everyone eager to expound on the important issues of the day. Even in everyday life, the nature of my daily work involves lots of conversation, talking and explaining. You can’t home educate an active 11-year-old and an exuberant 15-year-old without many hours of daily interaction and voice projection. It’s not surprising that there’s rarely a quiet moment. Being forced into a three-day lull took a bit of an adjustment.

Without the pressure to be constantly chatting and contributing to conversations, there was a growing sense of ease”

In my first few hours of silence, I felt a bit like the heroine in a silent movie, although my contortions, while trying to communicate, were less artistic and more hilarious. My children thought the whole thing was highly amusing with my youngest daughter kindly making me some word cards to help me to express my basic needs. And basic they were with my whole vocabulary limited to “A cup of coffee please”, “Turn on the news” and other such simple requests and instructions. It was funny at first but quickly became frustrating. With me normally having so much to say, it was a struggle to have to sit in silence.

Strangely, as the time passed, I began to get used to not saying anything. In fact, I started to experience an unexpected sense of calmness and peace. Without the pressure to be constantly chatting and contributing to conversations, there was a growing sense of ease. I didn’t have to worry about what comment I was going to make next, what advice I’d offer or what bit of banter to engage in. I could just listen for a change. It’s a rare person who’s a really good listener but it’s a skill that’s worthwhile to work on. Within a few short hours, I discovered that my temporary, self-imposed silence, positively transformed the home environment. St Francis de Sales was quoted as saying that “It is better to remain silent than to speak the truth ill-humouredly, and spoil an excellent dish by covering it with bad sauce.” How often are we speaking just to admonish, complain or criticise instead of praising, complementing and building up? When we listen more, we make room for others to have a platform and a voice. A good listener helps to create an atmosphere of openness and trust, being inspired by the virtues of wisdom, patience and charity. Often, when dealing with our spouse, children or friends and colleagues, we’re just biding our time until we can chime in with our own perspective. Rather than actively listening, we can be concentrating on formulating our answers or what we’re going to say next. We miss out on a real opportunity to share as clamouring voices drown out any chance for true understanding and communication. As I talked less at home, I heard more and took in more. 

It’s great to see children finally being able to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit which include wisdom, understanding, counsel and knowledge. Wisdom gives us the ability to view the world through God’s perspective and to be wise in making life’s choices. The gift of understanding inspires us to view others with compassion and sympathy, helping us to grasp the teachings of the Church and seeing how to help others who are in need. The gift of counsel aids us in developing good judgement and prudence in our dealings with others. We can ascertain what is good or evil and act accordingly. This helps us to get to the heart of a situation and see what the right path ahead is. As well as coming up with solutions to challenging situations in our own lives, we have the ability to give good advice and guidance to others. Using the gifts received at Confirmation requires us to pray and ponder which isn’t easy if we’re always surrounded by an unrelenting hustle and bustle. In the midst of the daily din, we can barely hear our own voices, never mind the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace”

In the words of St Teresa of Calcutta “We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence.” In introducing the book Don’t speak ill of others by Capuchin priest, Fr Emiliano Antenucci, Pope Francis talks about silence being one of God’s languages and also being a language of love. He referred to another quote from St Teresa of Calcutta: “The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.” Let’s take 30 minutes every day to just be silent in the presence of God and what a difference we will see in our lives.