Back in the 80’s when I was heavily involved in Battered Women Support Groups, both as a client in some and a facilitator in others, we had a commonly mentioned phrase: ‘Silence is Violence’. In such a setting, it was used as a wake-up call for women whose husband/partner was ignoring them or simply not speaking with them. This phrase popped into my head this week after a couple more weeks of silence from one of my children. Though I had attempted to reach out on a couple of occasions, there was no response. I began to spiral down into feelings of worry, feelings of rejection, feelings of being unloved and ‘un-cared’ about. Then this little phrase from over three decades ago presented itself. Once I was able to give it a name, identify what I was dealing with, a turn-around began to take place within. This does not mean that when one is being silent, that they are choosing to do so to intentionally hurt us. They may have other things going on in their life which is preventing them from responding for whatever reason.
A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak (Eccl. 3:7b)
We need Wisdom and discernment as to when to remain silent and when to speak out.
After my adopted son was raped, we went to speak with his counselor at the facility in which he had been placed because of his special needs. It was the top facility in our area which came highly recommended. Yet at this facility he, along with three or four others, was raped by one of his care-workers whose only credential was that he had been a Sunday School Teacher at some Church. When I entered into the conversation with his well-credentialed therapist, I asked him: “If you heard a man speaking to a child out on the sidewalk in the manner in which this rapist spoke to my son, would you intervene?” He thought about it for a moment, and then replied: “No”. I was both dumbfounded and enraged. “Are you seriously telling me you wouldn’t intervene if you heard such inappropriate comments?” I ended up walking out never to return. We sued that facility, along with that therapist and the officials that recommended this Institution, on our son’s behalf. Laws were changed, credentials and screening procedures instated for child-workers, people got fired, etc., as a result. This was NOT the time to remain silent.
Silence when used as a ‘control’ tool of another is cruel and a form of violence, especially when the controller is intentionally using it to make another feel poorly about themselves or in an attempt to manipulate them into a ‘lower position’ in a relationship. It can be a ‘power-play’. When a person finds themselves begging another to: “p-l-e-a-s-e talk to me”, that’s an alarm for a wake-up call.
When we become aware of an injustice or inappropriate behaviour, this is usually not a time to remain silent. However, we need to pray for Wisdom as to when, where, and what words need to be spoken. We need discernment. Words spoken inappropriately or at an inappropriate time, can cause incitement and only antagonize a situation.
On the other hand, there are times in which it is wise to remain silent. If we know that speaking out at a specific time will incite and perpetuate more violence, we may have to ‘bridle our tongue’, at least momentarily. This may require great restraint on our part, but we have to wisely choose the time and place to speak out.
Such discernment is often required when someone is grieving. There are times in which we need to speak comforting words; there are times when silence and simply ‘being’ with a griever is more helpful than any words that can be spoken. We have to remember that it’s not about what we want, but rather about what is constructive and truly helpful at the moment in whatever situation we find ourselves. There is no ‘law’, no blanket rule’, as to when to speak or when not to ‘speak’. If only it were that simple. Rather, we need to seek God for His Wisdom in each and every such situation.
When confronted with any sort of injustice, ‘timing is everything’. The manner in which we speak out against such things, and the words and setting chosen, can either ignite a fire or put one out. Once again, we need balance and ‘temperance in all things’. When we know someone who is grieving, a similar balance is necessitated. We may deeply desire to alleviate another’s pain, yet we need to do so in a manner which is best for the griever and not simply because we desire to alleviate our own pain in watching another suffer. There are times when a person needs to ‘feel’ their pain to work through it. Alleviating that pain at the moment may only be ‘kicking the can down the road’. There are times when we need to choose silence even though it hurts us to do so, if it is in the best interest of another. Silence can be a form of respect — respect for the reality of the pain and suffering.
Bottom line, silence can be violence…or silence can prevent the perpetuation of violence. We need to choose wisely.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
Articles on WordPress.com: https://wordpress.com/posts/bereavedparentsblog.wordpress.com.
Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/
Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))