After over a month without saying anything here on this blog, it’s time to break the silence and to encourage each of you to do the same.
I’ve been quiet for one reason and one reason only… I’ve not known what to say. If you know me personally or if you’ve been around the blog very long, you may know that that isn’t a common occurrence. I am generally quite the chatterbox. But recently it has just seemed that there aren’t words.
After a recent conversation with my mom, however, I’ve realized that sometimes silence is just as powerful, if not more powerful, than words themselves. But almost never in a good way.
Reasons To Break The Silence
Surely you remember as a child being told that if you see someone being treated unkindly but don’t stop it, you’re just as guilty, right? Did you know that that isn’t only true for children? Sometimes I think as adults we tend to leave those childhood lessons behind. At least I know I do.
But this is one we all need to remember, because saying nothing is almost as dangerous as saying something terrible.
We live in a society where neutrality is normal. When asked, “How are you?” We respond with, “Fine.” When asked what has been happening in our lives we say simply, “Nothing much.” These neutral, essentially silent responses are causing us to isolate ourselves even further than we already are.
Break The Silence To Show Others They’re Not Alone
I’ve spent most of my life thinking I was the only one. I didn’t know of anyone who struggled with anxiety. I didn’t know of anyone who had problems with sensory processing. I didn’t know of anyone who struggled with mommy guilt. I thought I was the only one.
I’ve heard from many of you something similar. Messages and comments like this one, “Wow! I’m so glad you’ve said this. I always thought it just me who felt that way. Thank you for opening up about this.”
Often times we’re afraid to talk about our struggles because others haven’t talked about theirs. But I can almost guarantee you that if you begin to open up about them, others will show you that you aren’t alone. And this isn’t just going to help you. It’s going to help them as well.
Break The Silence To Help Others
You may remember one of my last blog posts where I mentioned a lady who told me, “I”m glad you’re here.” Those words sound so simple, but they were so, so powerful. Why? Because she broke the silence. This is a fairy large church. And while plenty of people had said, “Good morning,” with a smile (although, probably not genuine), it was all neutrality. It was essentially, just silence.
But that lady at the back of the church (I have since learned her name is Betty) was personal that day. She didn’t only see me. She didn’t only see the struggle. She did something about it. Something so small, but something no one else did. I walked past seven rows full of people that day. I walked past multiple people in the foyer. And not one of them did what she did. None of them were willing to break the silence to help someone else.
I recently read of a lady who came home to find all of her neighbors standing in their yards staring at a fully grown man who was laying on the ground screaming. No one approached him. The lady ran over to see if she could help and discovered that the man’s wife had passed away in their home and the man was extremely distraught.
Can you imagine being one of those neighbors? Seeing someone in obvious pain and doing nothing but staring? I want to say I could never do that. But I think we all need more practice in breaking the silence than one can ever imagine.
Why Are We Silent?
As Luke Bryan says, “I believe most people are good.” I truly think the average person wants to help. I believe they want to be kind and I believe they want to break the silence. So why don’t we?
We Don’t Know How
Sounds a bit silly right? We don’t know how to speak up? But I believe it’s true. So often we don’t know what to say or do and so we do nothing. We simply freeze and wait to see if someone else will step up.
We Are Afraid
We are afraid that someone will think we are crazy for saying something. Or we’re afraid the person we reach out to won’t appreciate our words.
We Don’t Notice
In our busy society today, it’s all too common to not even see what’s happening around us. We are running from here to there staring at our phones so often we miss a lot of what’s going on in our environment.
We’ve all laughed at the silly videos of people walking into fountains or falling over nothing because they’re staring at their phones. But it’s a sad reality. If we don’t see the struggles coming up in our lives, how are we going to see what’s happening to others?
How To Break The Silence
My dad used to talk so much about “people watching.” He just loved watching the mannerisms of other people. We used to sit sometimes for an hour after the meal was finished at a restaurant just seeing what others are doing. I miss those days.
Nowadays, we barely even look at our family while we eat because we’re so glued to a screen. And we’re in such a hurry that when the food’s gone, so are we.
If we are going to break the silence, we need to actually know what’s going on around us. Put down your phone. Not on the table, but why not leave it in the car for 30 minutes while you eat? Or in another room? Talk with those around you, not just your family, but even the waitress or those at the table next to you. See what’s happening.
As you’re looking, consider why others may be doing what they are. If you see someone breathing heavily as they’re pushing a buggy full of groceries across the parking lot, ask yourself why. Why are they having such a hard time? Could it be that they have a health problem that makes this task difficult? Could they have received a phone call that took their breath away?
If you see someone missing church for several services, consider why that might be. What are some of their hardships that may be making it difficult for them to come?
Ask What You Can Do
You can’t solve everyone’s problems. But I guarantee there is something you can do for every person you see struggling. So ask yourself. When you see that person struggling with their cart, think, “Is there something I can do to help them?”
You may not be able to load their groceries for them. Maybe you’re strapped for time, or maybe you have physical struggles as well. But even a genuine smile and acknowledging their presence with a short, “It’s so nice to get the groceries you need, but I know it can be super difficult to load them all up” can change their outlook on their entire day.
If you’re not sure how you can help, ask them. Simply say, “It seems you’re having a rough time. I’d really like to help. What would be the most beneficial to you?” You could even throw out some ideas, “Would you like me to load up your trunk for you? Or is it better if I reach into the buggy and hand you things so you don’t have to bend all the way down?”
Breaking The Silence To End Suicide
I’ve created an entire post about preventing suicide in young people, but what I’m about to say goes for a much larger age range.
Those who commit suicide do not typically do it on a whim. It’s generally well thought out, and even planned. It’s also not generally a quick idea. It’s when the pain builds and builds, and builds, and the person truly feels they either deserve death, or have no other option.
But breaking the silence can stop that pattern of negative thoughts in and of itself.
While I was not suicidal on that Sunday that Betty spoke to me, I had truly been struggling with the thoughts of, “I don’t think anyone would even care if I wasn’t here anymore.” Those simple words, “I’m glad you’re here.” Didn’t hit my ears as, “I’m glad you’re at church.” But rather, “I’m glad you exist.”
And that is the power of breaking the silence.
Focus this week on trying to break the silence. Here are some ideas of things you can say that could truly encourage someone.
- I can’t believe how patient you’ve been through this situation!
- You are so awesome at this!
- I just wanted to ask your opinion because I know you give great advice!
- I’m sorry you’ve had a hard time. What can I do to help you?
- I really missed you yesterday.
- You’ve been working so hard.
- You’ve done a really great job on this project.
- Are you here by yourself? Would it be okay if I sit and talk for a while?
These are all such simple things that we can say to others to break the silence, and to show them that they truly do matter. And I think you’ll find that you feel a bit better about yourself afterwards as well.
How Will You Break The Silence This Week?
Take some time to think about people you know in your life that are struggling. Maybe it’s your husband, your child, a neighbor, someone at church, or even someone you just know from the Internet. Maybe you know what their struggles are. Maybe you just know something has seemed a bit “off” lately.
What can you do to break the silence and make them know that they are valued? Let me know in the comments below.
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