The Joy of Silence

Have you ever noticed how we run from silence and how enthusiastic we are for noise?  Noise in our cars – music, radio or audio books; noise at work – music or radio again; noise in our homes – music, radio or television.  “… All that noise down in Whoville…”

It seems that we are obsessed with running from the silence. How many people have said, “Well even though I’m not watching it, I like to have the TV running in the background for company. I like it for the noise.”

Why are we so uneasy about silence?

I think it is because the void it leaves makes us feel idle, dull, barren, and perhaps it even seems a bit scary.

So, we fill our lives with noise. And this noise can at times bring with it chaos and clutter.

Back in 2008 I went on a silent retreat for a week at a Catholic retreat house. And by saying I went there, I mean I was coerced. I had no interest in going, but a good friend who had gone, kept telling me how great it was.

I remember the drive there. To say I was nervous is an understatement. It’s not like I’m a raging extrovert (quite the opposite, actually), but the thought of no sounds for an entire week, I found terrifying.

The first day there, I handed in my cell phone. No laptop. I didn’t even have any books except the one that we were given to read – “The Imitation of Christ”.

During the retreat we prayed in silence, ate in silence, were instructed as we sat in silence, and only communicated through hand gestures and written notes.

The first day I wanted to poke my eyes out.

The second day I found myself mentally slowing down, yet still fighting the distractions in my mind.

The third day I felt like the clutter in my mind was truly starting to dissolve.

The fourth day I never wanted to talk again.

Ok, that’s dramatic and not true.

But, by the end of that week, I had developed a deep respect and gratitude for silence, and the grace that can come from it.

I learned during that week that silence can be beautiful, powerful and healing.

I also learned that when you can only talk by writing a note, you only say what’s important. I realize now that before the retreat I talked often, but said little.

Silence forces us out of our comfort zones. When everything around is quiet, we can either grasp for noise to fill that void, or we can go inside ourselves. And what do we find there?  Often it’s things we do not want to find. But that is where it starts. It’s only when we discover things about ourselves that need improvement or changing, can we start to let God do His work in us.

So often noise is a means for us to run from ourselves.

Since the retreat, I have learned about several benefits of silence:

Silence can enable us to go within ourselves and find a remedy for stress and anxiety. We can more easily relax if things are quiet. We can remove ourselves from the confusion and chaos of the world and discover many things in our lives for which we can be grateful.

Silence also helps us to focus on what’s important. It is only when we can find silence that we can be more attuned to the voice of God that is speaking within us, guiding us with how to respond to the situations that come up in our lives.

Silence also teaches us that simplicity and joy are close companions. The more silence a person has in their life the more that they can notice and savor the simple joys of life, without all of the world’s many distractions.

Also, silence helps us to realize that a few simple words spoken from a soul that is in tune with God have far more power than hours of chatter.

It’s important to note, that as you create silence by subtracting, that you not fill the empty space with a different type of noise, distraction, or clutter.

Let your world go silent if just for a moment. Then try again, but longer. And again.

But instead of letting your mind fill the silence with clutter, try to focus on God within the quiet space that results.

Speak to Him, listen to Him.  He will meet you there.

Let God speak back to you. It probably won’t be in actual words, but you’ll know when He has spoken to you. Thoughts, inspirations, impressions, etc.

You will be surprised how much is actually there IN the silence itself if you will just take that first step.

It’s there that you will find the joy of silence.

This article originally appeared on Grow in Virtue.


Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog, and is the author of The Quest for Virtue, both which focus on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.

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