It has been an exceptionally busy week, not just volunteering at camp, but also, attending a work meeting in NYC while the campers were on their overnite camping trip for three days. As a result I did not have time to write a Shabbat encouragement. Instead, below is one I wrote several years ago, its message still timely:
Quiet is good. There are times, actually many times, that I thoroughly enjoy silence. Or perhaps the rhythmic tap of light rain on the roof can add to the feeling. Add a puppy or two and a fire in the fireplace. . . No doubt most if not all of my creative times come in these moments. Even when I’ve been previously inspired by Messianic Jewish music while jogging, the actual act of writing happens when my room is quiet, meditative, empty except for what is to pour forth.
Yet there are times when silence has just the opposite effect. Recently I had asked a person a question and no response came. A day or two passed. Then a week. During that time frame my mind went from not thinking about it to coming up with bizarrely negative possibilities. The question involved a financial obligation that was regularly paid and nothing was happening. Would the person stop meeting his obligation? Had I said something wrong? Would I now have to pay more? Where would I get that money? I even sent a few reminders over the course of days and no response. Was the person okay? Had he changed his phone number? His email address? I checked with others who knew him to see if he was traveling. Was he ill? No logical reasons were apparent for his lack of response. He must have changed his mind about his obligation. Does he know all that I do? The payment is well worth it. Someone must be influencing him. He could have to pay a lot more if I did less. He should be grateful.
I found that as each day went unanswered my thoughts grew darker. His nonpayment must be based on the merits. He must somehow feel he doesn’t owe this. Well let me tell him why! The silence devoured my security and sense of well being on this issue. . .
Until one more try. I texted again and the long awaited response came: “So sorry. I mailed last month’s and this month’s checks yesterday.”
Immediately I felt lighter. How was I able to create so much drama in my head? Clearly I should not have felt so worried and a better response would have been to not stress over something I have no power to change (other than to remind the person.) Yet what I found equally as remarkable was how his silence had such power.
We are only human and we will react to what life brings. We can work on our stuff, for sure. Yet in our relationships with others, perhaps even more impactful than our actions and words is our silence. When we are angry, some tend to withdraw and give “the silent treatment.” Truthfully, that is often more painful to the recipient than harsh words. I am not recommending this tactic by any means, but am using its example to underscore my point of the power of silence. In a case such as mine this week, sometimes we are silent just because we are busy, or forgetful, or we put our needs above the needs of another. Just be aware that the effect of such inaction can be devastating, especially to relationships, especially the longer the silence continues.
There are times when silence is good. Perhaps a comment is being made about you that you do not appreciate. Depending on the circumstances, it may need to be corrected. You may need to stand up for yourself, or for another. Sometimes, however, silence and letting it fall off of you is much more healing to all involved. Not engaging in what can become a negative cycle makes silence one of our best tools when used positively and appropriately. And there are times when silence destroys trust, sadly happening more often out of our own carelessness, or thoughtlessness, than deliberate. We know we’re running late but we don’t bother to let our loved one who is waiting for us know. We don’t share our loving thoughts often enough to those closest to us.
I encourage us to be mindful of our silence, its amazing power. Seek it out and revel in its ability to enrich our spiritual lives, our closeness to HaShem. Yet be aware of how our part in creating it affects others. Use wisely our choice to harm or heal.
May this week be one where silence is used to usher forth more love in this world through awesome inspirations and timely responses.