A few months ago, my wife and I took our kids on a short weekend trip to the mountains. As we pulled out of our neighborhood and merged onto the four lane highway, we suddenly realized an important detail for the trip had been left undone.
Kim and I both assumed the other person was going to make the necessary arrangements. As a result, neither of us had accomplished the task. And now, the trip had already begun.
The problem would ultimately be fixed with a little extra time and money. But in the moment, our conversation abruptly ended. Tenseness ensued. And both of us stared silently out the windshield in disgust.
After a few short minutes, one little voice called out from the backseat, “Umm, are you guys ever going to talk again?” The silence had become unbearable.
I was reminded again how silence has become a difficult atmosphere in our society.
In our homes, we turn on our televisions. In our cars, we turn on the radio. When we exercise, we put on our headphones. Even when waiting in elevators or on hold with customer service, sound fills the void.
It seems we have become uncomfortable with the very presence of silence in our lives. We speak of “awkward silences” in a room full of people. We fear that brief moment when we meet someone new and aren’t quite sure what to say. And I remember being on countless dates growing up where any lapse in the conversation meant the entire relationship was doomed forever.
My family even pokes fun at me when I mute the television during commercials—as if the idea of sitting in quiet for 2 minutes is too long.
But in a world filled with noise, silence becomes even more important.
It is no secret we are bombarded everyday with countless messages.
Advertisements from every flat surface and frequency tell us what to watch, where to go, and what to purchase. Countless artists fill canvases, screens, and printed paper hoping to convince us of their worldview and beliefs. Political pundits from every aisle and experts from every imaginable field speak boldly about how we should proceed on the most important issues of our time.
Meanwhile, silence quietly calls for our attention. Because only in extended periods of solitude, can we rediscover our hearts and the voice of timeless wisdom in our lives.
The benefits of silence and solitude in a noisy world are significant and life-giving. In quiet moments of reflection:
- We remove the expectation and influence of others.
- We hear our heart speak clearly.
- We reflect on our past and chart our future.
- We find rest and refreshment.
- We break the cycle of busyness in our lives.
- We become better equipped to show patience and love to others.
While anyone can experience silence at any time by finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found solitude does not occur naturally in our noise-centered world. It must be intentionally pursued by each of us.
But for it to be pursued, it must first be valued and desired.
Be reminded of the importance of silence and solitude. Make its presence a habit in your life—both in small ways and in big ways. You’ve got nothing to lose. And your whole life to gain back.
Sarah Vogel says
Still struggling to make peace a daily life habit. My friend at work who has more than twenty years of experience in administration joked about his life work in the company he works as consisting of “managing the force of evils” daily to keep the calm and quietness in the office environment. With the virtual new wave, for me, personally, it is like you can’t escape the conversation just mute yourself, step out to the kitchen eat in some quiet place. So much for being free spirited. But I think that just see what need to be done and help out is just good enough for my day to go well.
Lily Perla says
I just put my retirement paperwork under the administrators door! I’ve worked nightshift for years! I have become debt free, and downsizing to a studio apartment! I walk, and read in quiet places.
Cool! That’s a great place to be. I am making the best of my days away from home for a rescue mission. Enjoy every bit of it myself.
Kylie Pringle says
I love having a break from the noise of the world when I am home, but it can be difficult when you share a home with your family.
My favourite quiet time is on the weekends when I can physically slow down and take my time especially in the morning and quiet makes it extra special! Thank you for your words to remind us to step away from the noise of the world,
Frankie Parker says
“Silence is golden.” someone said…
I work in total quiet. I always have. We are bombarded with sound. I love this message today.
Jayne Hellier says
We do seem to be a little fearful of silence in conversation, or lack of sound when we are alone. Even in our prayer time, we can forget to sit in quiet to hear God’s voice. It seems we can all use more “clutter free” silence!
Bea Galloway says
Silence and solitude are such redemptive concepts, too. Our world is yelling all of the time and people run away from their thoughts… everything is a distraction from what’s real and when you’re faced with what’s real, you’re faced with reality and there’s a choice in front of you. I’m a Christian, and I see everything from a redemptive lens. I just love how silent and peaceful the cross is. It’s always there, even when our world is moving so fast. In the words of Twenty One Pilots… “I find over the course of our human existence, one thing consists of consistence: and it’s that we’re all battling fear, oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here. Am I too deep? Please stop thinking… I liked it better when my car had sound…”
Thanks for a great post, Josh. God bless.
Kevin McGrane says
I remember reading an essay about “wabi-sabi” and the author encouraged people to”cultivate silence”. So, when I’m home for the day, I do not turn on any tv or radio/music player. It’s so sanity-affirming.
my favourite song in the whole world, Sounds of Silence
People talking without speaking People hearing without listening People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence : Simon And Garfunkel –
Amy Shores says
I really appreciate this article. I am a single mom. Having kids makes the noise level in my house get absolutely crazy daily.. I get frazzled from the constant commotion… never a dull or silent moment… there is almost always conflicting noises…movie, music, singing, laughing, crying, fighting, interrupting, dog barking, stomping….!! its easy to get over-stimulated in daily life by all of the noise. I absolutely need my quiet time after my girls go to bed. The silence is absolutely essential for me to regain momentum for the next day. The silence is beautiful, as is the craziness of raising children… but to appreciate each, you must have a balance of each. :)
Barbara Radisavljevic says
You have echoed my thoughts. Although I usually live on 14 acres in the midst of 46 West wine country, its not free of noise. There is music from winery events, machinery noises, barking dogs and coyotes, and vehicle noise from the highway. But there are many quiet times in the early evening when I’ve been working in the garden to only the sound of birdsong or a breeze blowing the leaves of the surrounding trees — nature noises, which I find relaxing. I also enjoy the owl and cricket music that calms me as I lie in bed.
We had to temporarily move to Paso Robles behind Walmart for health reasons a year ago, and then I really appreciated how quiet it had been in Templeton. Having everyone so close together really increases the noise level.
What I really hate is the noise provided to “entertain” us in waiting rooms and other public places where I’d like to be able to read in peace. That goes double when I’m on hold and the constant recorded messages keep me from being able to concentrate on my writing while I wait.
I often wonder if some of the mental illness and crime we have today is due to the constant barrage of sound that prevents people from thinking about the direction of their lives or simply reflecting on what’s good and “hearing” the natural world.
I agree. I hate TVs in restaurants, doctor’s waiting rooms, now even on gas pumps
I just heard “a voice” coming out of a gas pump a couple days ago! Seriously?!? Leave me alone! LOL
Sanjaya Saxena says
Silence, if required at all by anyone, can be easily attained by going to deep sleep that will shut entry of any external sound to your brain. Deep sleep is a state of sleep that you experience after tiresome work or in medication or when you are free of worries and so on. Deep sleep and Coma are two such conditions which can be called pre-death states. However, I would like to say that if you think you want to live alive, you must not try to get rid of sounds because the very attempt to do so indicates that the external physical sound has become noise, something that annoys you. You can’t run away from the sound in your life. Even if you close your ear tightly or say you become deaf, you can’t get over it as the inner voice always keeps making an inner sound unless you are in deep sleep or Coma. Moreover, the life means communication. Everything in the Universe, wheather living or non-living, is undergoing some kind of communication process. We’ll discuss it later….
We’ve been fulltime RVers for over 4 years and have been in 39 states. While we aren’t the hardcore “boondockers” finding remote national land to park on, we have been some pretty isolated places.
Finding a place where you can’t hear the sounds of man is difficult in the USA.
Road noise. Airplanes. Heavy equipment.
One of the things I value about where we are right now (4K lake front farming town in MI) is that – at least before school got out – the weekdays are very quiet.
Finding a place where it’s dark at night. We are as addicted to light as we are sound.
I agree with the light pollution comment. For several years we lived in a small village. Between the main highway and the village was a ski resort. All winter the lights from the slopes and the ski lifts illuminated the entire area like some twisted beacon. Then, they were turned off for about eight months. I would drive to the top of the hill, village not yet in view…….stop….turn off my car and roll down the window. I would stick my head out and look straight up. Silence and a sea of stars. The husband always commented how it took me ten minutes longer to make the drive when roads are dry and clear.
Sam Yang says
Someone once stole the radio from my car. I was planning to replace it, but then I began to enjoy the silence.
Perfect timing! I read this post at 7:30 AM while sitting in the silence on my daughter’s back patio. She and her husband are at work and the kids are at school…after a very busy weekend visit filled with sports, church, and more sports, just sitting here listening to the birds and the wind in the trees is lovely. I often so the same thing at home, but here it feels like a vacation!
Michael Lewis says
I love when the power goes out. No humming of appliance or even lights. Those little LEDs that are on our electronic devices no longer lite up. It’s surprising how much noise you have in your house when you are sitting in what isn’t actually silent. But when the power goes out…… :-)
Shannon Combs says
I love silence. Always have. I love to get up early on Sunday mornings and enjoy the silence. We live out in the country, but not very far from a major highway. Sunday is the only day I can go outside and not hear road noise from the highway. I can imagine what our little homestead was like before cars and other motorized vehicles. Very soothing.
I can relate to the highway noise. AFter a new freeway was added, my quiet backyard was never the same. When we are up in the mountains, I can’t believe how much I love just hearing the wind go through the tree tops.
I have often complained about my noisy environment and wanted other people to be silent: my children, my colleagues at work, people in the street at night. As if the question of noise and silence was an external problem, coming from the others. The funny thing is that yesterday, I woke up with a sore throat. The pain was terrible, and I could not talk. Not a single word. Speaking, even whispering was very painful. So I had to manage without talking. It has been only 2 days so far, but I can tell you this is an amazing experience.
Silence is funny, playing with hands and writing words to make yourself understood.
Silence is frustrating, not being able to share your thoughts entirely with your loved ones.
Silence makes you smile more to other people, as if to balance the lack of words.
Silence makes you appreciate your own company more, except you cannot sing.
You can try to make your little one finish his plate (or put his clothes on) without expressing any word, but it requires lots of persuasion, and yes, it is much more difficult.
You can go to the office and explain to everyone you will work only by email for few days. Colleagues tend to be gentle, less aggressive. Your condition will make them all laugh, and you will appreciate their understanding and even compassion; but you cannot help feeling a bit excluded, lonely, dumb, weak and unable to defend yourself. This is when you realized how lucky you are to have the gift of speaking.
I will recover by the end of the week hopefully, but I will remember these silent days. And I might even try it again, sometimes.
Why would you go to work if you are so sick and in pain you can’t talk? As an immun-compromised person I’d rater you work from home, or take sick days.
Excuse you… artists don’t make art to convince anyone of anything. What a rude assumption. Artists create something out of nothing for their own personal fulfillment and smile a little bit if someone else likes it.
I think he is talking about artists who create only with the intention to sell, not all of them. What a rude assumption, indeed.
Perhaps enjoying silence is a sign of maturity!
I can assure you it is.
Deanna Perez says
I’ve cut out so many things and a couple of people these last 7 years on my journey to minimalist; 2,500 sq. ft, to 800 sq. ft, ridding myself of cable, magazine subscriptions, a t.v., vhs/dvd’s, cd’s, I’m debt free, I have a better work-ministry-life balance, etc. You would think that I would have a chatter free life. Not the case. Even social media is inaudible noise. Thank you for this particular blog (written last April). Though I don’t make resolutions, I am committing to 1 day of the week in complete silence.