The Strength of Silence

Sometimes the best thing to do is shut up. Not as a response to other people’s verbiage, but as a choice to direct the “conversation”. There’s a kind of strength that comes from choosing not to speak, from not giving others more fodder to chew on, from not contributing to the noise of a cacophonic conversation, or of a gaggle of gossip, or speculations or dreamed up verbalized pretensions. From not playing the game that everybody wants you to play. (There’s also a season when you should definitely speak out. I’m not referring to that season here.)

You choose not to play your cards. You fold. You pass. You move on. “Move along, nothing to see here…” (While others caught red handed are saying, “Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave…”) All the while, people are wondering what you’re up to. Part of it is being wise as serpents and peaceful as doves.

I have one of those resting faces that doesn’t express a lot of emotion. I’m guilty of not smiling much. It’s not that I’m not happy, it’s just that I’m so inwardly focused, that I’m not aware of my “face to the world.” I had a pastor who was similar, he has a face of stone, and he informed the congregation that he was bubbling over with joy. I get it, I’m the same way. I must say, however, the saying, “Smile! It makes people think you’re up to something!” thoroughly applies to me. That silence and sinister smirk…

As a result, I can be a part of a conversation and not say a word. At least, I am aware that I’m a part of a conversation. Others involved are at a loss as to why I’m not “contributing.” I learned long ago to not say much, because it keeps me out of trouble. I’m amazed that others who have become intimately acquainted with trouble haven’t learned that little nugget yet. The times when I do open my mouth and something inappropriate falls out, well, they have certainly reinforced my belief in the virtue of silence.

One of my biggest pet peeves are folks who enjoy the sound of their own voice. Let’s face it – you’re choosing to read this right now. If you don’t like what you’re reading, you can easily close the tab. There’s a handful of folks at work who run their mouths incessantly. The moment they speak – it’s nails across a chalkboard. I leave the area as quickly as possible as decorum allows. I can speak to 95% of my fellow workers and describe this scenario, and I assure you, they could name the guilty. Here’s the rub….the guilty? They have absolutely no credibility whatsoever. Even if they are speaking truth or fact, they come across as untrustworthy. All because they TALK TOO MUCH! And when two or more of these folks are in the same conversation? Heaven help us…

I have extraverted friends who can talk, and I’m not fazed by their verbiage. Because they know how to come up for air. They can read the conversation underneath the conversation. They get it. They can intuitively gauge the vibes of what’s going on. They, indeed, know how and when to shut up. This is a skill. I’m noticing that more and more do not have it. I think it’s a symptom of low self esteem in some.

Having “said” all of that, when I am around someone I wholeheartedly trust, or someone I’m excited to be with (and I can discern they are excited to be with me,) or the conversation is directed to something I’m passionate about, I can be a blabbermouth, too. There are seasons, and there are relationships…it takes some discernment to determine when keep it shut, and when to let the bone box rattle.

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Leaving Margin for Serendipity

We’re still in the shadow of the New Year Buzz, where folks are trying to get their lives organized around new goals and priorities. As I work on my goals, I find that I’m guilty of over scheduling every little thing that I want to do. As a result, I commit a costly error….leaving room for serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. ‘a fortunate stroke of serendipity’ ” Sometimes life happens, and it happens in a good way. And the tricky part is recognizing when what seems like a random event or happening is something that is a worthwhile pursuit. We need priorities. We need to be steadfast in pursuing that of which we’ve predetermined is necessary to achieve what is most important to us. But we also need to recognize we can relax a bit and curiously play with those little extras that come our way.

You might make an acquaintance who becomes a dear friend, or maybe a lifelong partner. You might attend an event where you learn one little piece of info or an idea that changes the trajectory of your life. You might see something, read something, hear something that inspires that one piece of art that grows into the masterpiece that defines your career. Or, it could be something much more subtle, yet has extraordinary ramifications in your life years from now.

The idea is not so much playing, “What if?” in a positive way, (which can be similar to chasing rabbits, a time waster,) but learning to listen to your heart. That in itself is a skill that takes practice. That’s why silence and solitude are important in this day and age of the flurry of busy-ness. This why I have a daily practice of meditating and spending time in God’s word and prayer. It’s a kind of daily reset where I connect to my values, and tune in to the frequency of God’s promptings.

There is a kind of balance of learning when to say Yes, and when to say No. Derek Silvers has what he calls the “*Expletive*, Yeah!” test. He says no to a lot of stuff, most of the stuff that comes his way. But if he comes into something that makes him say *Expletive*, Yeah!….then he unapologetically pursues that option. (I am not suggesting you use the same vernacular.) The point is that if something instantly gives you that overwhelming sense of passion, and you can look at it through a lens of wisdom and evaluate it as worthwhile, then give it a go.

Sometimes it might take some inner wrestling to determine if it is pursuit worthy. I have an opportunity to see a favorite band in May, of which I did not plan for. This competes with a commitment to a friend. This is an integrity issue. Guess what? The unplanned for event loses. Although it will be awesome, and there is still a chance I could go if the opportunity still exists after my commitment to my friend is fulfilled, I’m not compromising my integrity for what seems like a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to see something pleasureable, but not necessarily life changing.

Sometimes it’s also an issue of having the time-space available to not only experience the serendipitous, but even to be aware of it. That’s why it’s good to have some unplanned or uncommitted chunks of time in your schedule. This is called margin. You need it not only to breathe, but to recharge. You also need it to have those moments to listen to that still, small Voice. It’s that Voice that once tuned in to, will help you discern whether to pursue the offerings of those other seemingly random moments.

Work hard at what you are pursuing. Have a mission and vision, and values to define what’s important. Take the time to chill and be aware of what’s going on. Take a look at what’s being offered. Curiously question and play with what’s there. Learn to say a wise yes and a wise no. And run with what happens. The wind might push your sails to interesting places.