I wish I could make that crickets sound every time there was an awkward silence.
Don’t you hate awkward silences? I do, although there are times when I revel in them simply because I find some awkward situations humorous.
Most people are uncomfortable with silence. In our culture, we’re accustomed to noise. People put on background noise while they work. We even buy appliances that produce white noise so we don’t have to endure silence. That’s a little bit of crazy, honestly. Why does silence scare us so much?
Blaise Pascal was a philosopher, mathematician, physicist, and French dude who invented the calculator. He wrote about our resistance to silence in his book Pensées. This is fragment #136 from that book:
“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
Pascal talked about how we welcome distraction into our lives to get away from the silence. For in the silence, we come into contact with our sinful nature. We are uncomfortable with ourselves because we want to escape the anxiety and stress that the big questions that life presents us.
“[F]or it is indeed to be unhappy to be in insufferable sadness as soon as we are reduced to thinking of self, and have no diversion. If our condition were truly happy, we would not need diversion from thinking of it in order to make ourselves happy. As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all.
“The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this it the greatest of our miseries. For it is this which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves, and which makes us insensibly ruin ourselves. Without this we should be in a state of weariness, and this weariness would spur us to seek a more solid means of escaping from it. But diversion amuses us, and leads us unconsciously to death.”
Carl Trueman has an incredible commentary on Pascal’s talk about silence. This is from his book The Wages of Spin
(on pages 179-180):
“Pleasure and fun are good things; but when they become means of keeping us from facing the truths of our creaturely existence, they are profoundly bad for us. Let us take time…to be bored, to strip away from ourselves the screens we have created to hide the real truths of life and death from our eyes. Only then, I think, will we truly grasp the urgency of the human predicament.”
Take some time today to sit still. The Spirit of God might speak to you in the silence.
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
Psalm 4:4 – Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.