The Victory of Silence

I wrote awhile back about how the Enemy often uses small, innocent distractions to derail us from our spiritual journeys. I was thinking the other day about another often overlooked tactic – the victory of silence.

Sometimes it isn’t about persuading us to actively participate in certain things, but simply to let us to fall into the trap of silence when they happen.

For example, if someone tells a racial joke or particularly cruel piece of gossip in front of you and you smile and say nothing, does that count? It doesn’t matter that you didn’t laugh or encourage the joke. You didn’t discourage it either with your silence.

Now before you think I’m being hard on the listener, let me say that I fall into this category quite a lot – more than I care to admit. Not because it’s OK with me, but because my over-analytical mind is usually trying to think of all the things I should say (especially if caught off-guard), and by the time I’ve collected myself, the conversation has moved on. It happens so often, I should really be more prepared for it.

What should I do?

Would it be polite to say anything here?

It might embarrass them.

I don’t know how to say anything without it being taken the wrong way.

I don’t want to make a scene.

“Causing a scene” might be  a little extreme, but this is exactly what Jesus did when happening upon dove-sellers in the temple courtyard.

“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”

I’m not advocating flipping over tables (there is a time and a place for that), but every week there are little tests that come our way – some not so little – and it’s a lie to think that if we can’t speak out on the small things that we will magically have the integrity to speak out on the large things.

Sometimes saying nothing is worse than saying anything.

We’ve been told that it’s the “civilized” way, the polite way, to hold one’s tongue – sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it isn’t.

If the Enemy can get you to remain silent when a key principle is being threatened and then convince you that you are being polite and well-bred for doing so, he’s knocked out two birds with one stone.

I’m reminded  of the lyrics of a popular song, Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence:

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
A neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

“Fools” said I,”You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon gods they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, the words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whisper’d in the sounds of silence.

There is a sound of silence, and it echoes in the caverns of a soul.

There is a particular victory for the Enemy in silence, and it comes when the silence of a good man speaks louder than words.