Be Quiet! The New Year in Silence

Need some silence after the holidays? We may not realize how much we do. Max Picard, in his book The World of Silence, says, “The human spirit requires silence just as much as the body needs food and oxygen.” If you’re anything like me, silence has been harder to come by than food in the past month! Silence is hard because it requires, subtraction; subtraction of people, activities, background noise, and productivity. As good Americans, we tend to be adders. We add things more readily than we subtract. And the New Year just begs to us to add things as we resolve this or that and make commitments to gyms, yoga studios, meal programs, and subscriptions. Where is the room for silence and subtraction?

So….silence. Parker Palmer says that “we live in a culture that discourages us from paying attention to the soul….and when we fail to pay attention, we end up living soulless lives” (p. 35). It is easy to do! We can be very successful, busy, and popular while being very disconnected from our own souls. That’s where silence forces the issue. Palmer describes the soul as shy, like a wild animal that may require a certain amount of stillness and quiet to even show up. I like this description. It helps me understand phases of my life when silence is so difficult for me. It is because my soul shows up and confronts me with all my discomfort with myself. Those times are critical for my development, however, because if I keep things noisy, I’m not listening to my own soul; my own voice and the voice of God inviting me to more integration and depth.

I’m trying to think through what subtraction may be required for me to have more silence in my life. It’s hard. I started a list in my journal to help me brainstorm. “I want less of _____________ and more of _____________.” Since we tend to be such “adders” considering subtraction has never been my strong suit. I haven’t worked it all out yet, but I’m on my way. In the meantime, I’m letting quiet times stay quiet, I’m leaving my headphones at home for more of my walks/runs, I’m practicing wordless prayer, and pausing to be mindful in the midst of my day.

How about you? Is silence something that your soul needs in order to show up and speak to you? What subtraction will entice your soul?

5 comments


  • Lorraine

    Ah, you’ve hit on my “drug” of keeping things noisy so I can’t hear. I just didn’t know how tired I was until I was forced to stop and be still. It’s not what I do, it’s what He has done. I must rest in Him and receive His love, instead of choking it out.

    January 1, 2015
  • KF

    This is a really difficult concept to teach our children as well. There is such a focus on entertaining them and keeping them from being “bored” that they sometimes have difficulty learning the value and pleasure of being still and quiet. I am impressed that my children find ways to find some quiet space or ask for less input.

    January 2, 2015
  • Jesse Stowell

    Oo, you’ve helped me figure out a topic for my next Large Group talk! I may be stealing some direct quotes.

    January 5, 2015
  • Jesse Stowell

    …Also, this is really helpful personally!

    January 5, 2015
  • […] A little more than a year ago, Janice McWilliams, a friend and mentor, asked in her post “Be Quiet! The New Year in Silence,” […]

    February 11, 2016

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