There are numerous reasons a person uses silence. Examples of silence include praying, thinking, reflecting, observing, or sometimes as a controlling mechanism. Whatever the reason is, silence can be beneficial or detrimental to a relationship.
Praying does not require us to be bowed down on our knees, laying prostrate, or with our hands lifted. We can pray and the person next to us does not have an inkling of an idea that we’re praying. While you may think the person sitting next to you in a meeting is disengaged, he/she may be praying. Whether standing at a bus station, boarding an airplane, or getting on an elevator, someone is praying. No matter what environment we are in, silence allows us time to pray and seek God for peace, forgiveness, discernment, comfort, healing, direction, and a myriad of other reasons. The environment can be loud and boisterous or quiet and calm. A person sitting in silence may be using the moment to talk to the One who knows all and is all.
Hannah prayed in silence. She wasn’t concerned about what others said about her. Hannah knew that she needed to be in silence and pray to the Father. Eli assumed that she had been drinking when it was the total opposite because she was sober in mind and knew that God was the one who could answer her prayer.
Think it Through
Silence is necessary when after we’ve prayed, we need to think things through regarding a decision that needs to be made. It allows time to determine the best path to take, who needs to be involved, and what resources & support are needed. When we think things through, we can also identify positive and negative outcomes. We can project our potential wins and losses.
Just as we think things through, we often take time to reflect. Self-reflection is necessary for personal growth and requires silence. I can’t imagine anyone who does not take the time for self-reflection. We all experience moments of being on the mountaintop and in the lows of the valley. Whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley, it is important for us to find a quiet environment to assess, meditate on and evaluate what we have done, gone through, and how we see ourselves. I encourage you to use this time to journal your thoughts and identify what went well and what needs to change. This allows us to make the necessary adjustments for improvements.
Hopefully, you are an observer who sits in silence and watches the behavior, character, and communication of others. I like to do this when I’m in a new setting—work environment, networking event, group vacations, and any time that I am going to be around a group of people for specific amounts of time. One of my reasons for doing this is to determine who in the group is the “chatterbox” #gossiper. This is the person I am aware of not sharing personal conversations. When we observe, we can determine who the complainer is and not get entangled in their negativity. Another reason is to identify the person who is at a higher level than you and can increase your knowledge. This is the individual I want to connect and collaborate with because Iron Sharpens Iron (Proverbs 27:17).
On the negative aspect, silence can be used as a form of control in a relationship. Giving someone the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. Not addressing the issue instead of talking it out increases stress and frustration. It can lead to feelings of loneliness and doubt about where they stand in the relationship. There is a difference in needing to take time to gather your thoughts and calm down after a negative incident. This allows both parties to become “level-headed” and decrease the opportunity for the conversation to be argumentative and confrontational. The door is open for a calm crucial conversation that allows both people to share openly with the goal of having effective communication to resolve the issue.
Establish a timeframe for how long you all will take to “cool down” or “gather your thoughts” before coming together for an open and transparent discussion. Going to bed without talking, brings division in the relationship. You might think it doesn’t, but it does something to the person that is being ignored, controlled, and emotionally abused.
When the silent treatment is used as a form of control, the individual may ignore their partner for hours, days, or weeks. Knowing full well they are hurting the person, they choose to punish with silence and ultimately manipulate the situation.
Call to Action when he/she is being silent.
- Have your own hobbies. Don’t be so “caught up” in the relationship that you lose a sense of who you are and what you like to do. Get active to get energized.
- Avoid perusing social media. This can cause more harm than good. You need your mind to be on something positive and not on the images others what to portray about their lives.
- Continue to connect with family and friends. Plan a last-minute outing to do something fun.
- Take yourself on a date. Have a mini spa day and get a manicure and pedicure.
- Go to the park and read a book.
- Go for a walk, pray, and soak in some vitamin D.
- Establish boundaries and ask yourself: “Is it time to leave the relationship? Is this something that you can deal with by staying in the relationship if he/she doesn’t change?”
- Be honest with yourself and make an informed decision.
Once you’ve made a decision based on the last two bullet points above, determine your next steps. Is he/she willing to make the necessary adjustments to improve communication in the relationship and avoid using the silent treatment? Your mental health should not be challenged as a result of being the receiver of the silent treatment. Your mental health deserves peace, comfort, and love. You are worthy to be loved to life!