In Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare touts silence as “the perfectest herald of joy” (Act II, Scene 1). And I would agree. There are moments that strike us speechless, unable to find the words to express just how happy, ecstatic, or joyful we are. However, I would dare to pose that the opposite is also true. Silence can also be the fiercest vehicle of despair. Silence can fill our ears, stab at our hearts, and wound our very souls.
That conversation that is ignored.
The letter/text/email that is never answered.
The invitation that is never accepted or extended.
The relationship/friendship that is never tended to.
The prayers that never seem to be answered.
The dreams that aren’t acknowledged.
The questions that are never answered.
The efforts that are not acknowledged
These silences are sharp and painful, the type that slice past our defenses and heap stones inside our chests. Everyone has experienced it at one time and in one form or another, and I have yet to find someone who doesn’t consider it one of the worst feelings/experiences in the world. No doubt about it, though, sometimes silence is…well, it’s just easier. Isolation and silence can protect us, keep us safe from rejection by keeping us from reaching out and putting ourselves in a vulnerable place. Silencing our voice can prevent discord, disharmony, and confrontation. Silence keeps our secrets, our weaknesses, our pains, our hearts from being revealed, judged, compared, thought foolish, stupid, or even just from being disagreed with too vehemently.
Silence may feel safer, yes, but, in the other hand, it can be soul-crushing. Silence in response to our putting ourselves out there, to stepping out in faith, to the putting forth of effort in whatever situation it may be, can breed doubt, hurt, and far worse, if we let it. Silence can fill our minds with conjectures, our imaginings in place of the truth that we do not know and cannot expect to learn. Ofttimes, those thoughts, worries, and conjectures are far worse than what the truth might actually be, but those are the stones that are weighted into our chests and press on our hearts. Sometimes, though, silence is our cue to step back, to let go. But that can be just as difficult and heartbreaking. Letting go can feel suspiciously like giving up, which no one likes to admit to. I certainly don’t. But the other option is to give and reach until we give out or break.
I do not have a remedy for this. No magical words to make it better or easier. I haven’t figured anything out. Emotions and feelings cannot be cordoned off, magicked away, though they can be understood, commiserated, sympathized, and empathized with. Whether you choose to step forward or back is up to you. You may gain, or you may lose. Your way out of the silence is your way, no one else’s. I hope that you find it, and that it is good.