The Art of Silence

In 1965 when I was born (sorry), the popular Simon & Garfunkel song, the Sound of Silence, was released with the catchy words repeated throughout calling for “the sound of silence”.

This song seemed to be a commentary on the world of the day which was becoming more and more focused on flashing lights and loud noises, rather than upon moments of silence. One telling phrase is the one that reads: “People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening”.

This song is even more real in today’s world where we are ‘always on’, where our lives are continually interrupted, even beyond the hours of work with beeping phones and notifications now the norm. We are no longer used to the sound of silence and indeed feel uncomfortable when faced with silence for more than a minute.

Medical Studies

Silence is good for the soul. A Medical Daily report published in 2016 and based upon a number of scientific studies listed five key health benefits of silence. Walking regularly (ideally in nature) created increased growth in the brains hippocampus, responsible for memory growth.

Another study found that two hours of silence stimulates growth in the hippocampus (also responsible for controlling our emotions). Scientific research has found that noise levels have a significant effect on the brain, leading to increased stress and a negative result in one’s body as a result – silence was found to relieve tension in the brain and body in just two minutes.

A 2015 study found that people battling insomnia, fatigue and depression benefited greatly from some sort of meditative practice. One hundred scientists went on a silent retreat and found through this exercise that silence heightened sensitivity in other areas such as creativity and problem solving. Silence, in other words, is good for you.

I encourage my children to take moments in their lives to foster the art of silence. We live in a world filled with distraction. If we are going to be effective in our lives, we need to practice silence. Often we run from silence as we do not want to face our own thoughts, but I have found that when I really listen, my thoughts become clearer and I begin to focus on the right things.

Silence in Dispute

It is a paradox, but there are times when you will prevail over a difficult dispute by merely remaining silent.  I was once confronted by the wife of a business colleague, and I realised she had no desire to collate or study the facts, but merely wished to advance her husband’s grievance.

Under these circumstances, it is still important to listen carefully, to consider whether there are valid points being made, but bear the loss silently and in prayer. If the accusations being made are false, then God will set the record straight in His time, and the Christian should surrender to this rule.

What does Scripture Advise?

In the Bible we are exhorted on a number of occasions to ‘be still’.  In Psalm 37:7 we are encouraged: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”

In a later chapter (Pslam 46:10), we are reminded that in times of chaos and uncertainty, God reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

We need to be still and listen for God’s voice, allowing Him to work in our lives. Allow silence to do the heavy lifting for us. In the wise counsel of Mother Theresa:

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

AlanlouisPicAbout the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity as a child. Awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ultra Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the trials and successes of commerce for 3 decades.

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