I have been doing some reflecting recently on the power of silence. While our words have the power to build up or destroy and are so important, so too is our silence; silence is powerful also. Silence can generate equally powerful and varied reactions as words. When a man, who is madly in love with the woman of his dreams proposes marriage on bended knee with expectation that she will be thrilled and readily accept his proposal is instead met with a wide-eyed blank stare and silence, his world teeters on the brink of destruction in that silence. This silence of hesitation or alarm is not the one that has been on my heart, though it is one that can be important to recognize as survivalists. We need to read hesitation in those whom we are asking questions for intel purposes. Alternatively, when a driver approaching an intersection dodges a drunk pedestrian that has stepped off the curb and, though only traveling 15 mph, slightly bumps the fender of the car in the next lane and then approaches the car’s driver, silence coupled with a mildly annoyed glance from the offended driver rather than screaming and aggression is a welcome relief. We are still obligated for repairs to their vehicle, but we don’t have to deal with threats of an irate individual. This calm, rational silence can be a relief in a tense survival situation.
Sometimes the absence of sound tells us what we need to know– that the other person does not share our enthusiasm or reciprocate our feelings, or that they are not angry or filled with emotion. Sometimes, it just means that they are thinking because the proper response is not clear to them yet. In a survival situation, that kind of silence can be valuable, too. We need to know who to trust, and we need to know those we are trusting well. We need to know who can make quick, quality decisions in tense situations and who will not know how or be able to respond in a tense moment. We need to be able to read those who are telling the truth versus those who are lying to us. We need to be expert communicators and interpreters of communications.
The point of this article is that we need to know ourselves and motivations and develop a bank of memories that help drive us forward when things are difficult. Along those same lines, we need to know those with whom we are teaming in terms of their motivations and integrity and encourage our team and our children and families in developing their inner strength and memory banks to endure the hardships that await us. I assert that we need to partner with those who have determination and inner strength to persevere when things are difficult, or have what’s required even when they have to stand alone at times.
To know someone, we have to have spent time with them and listened to what is in their heart and what drives them. This only comes forth when we go through some things together, whether monumental highs and/or dark valleys that either are or feel like the valley of the shadow of death. In these times, good and bad, we need to be silent to hear from them and to experience the moments together. Let’s talk about these golden moments– times where we are silent to absorb the moment, listen to the hearts of those around us, and share in the experiences that can occur at the most unexpected times and bind us together, or at least give us insight into the person to help us know this person’s strength and weaknesses in order to appropriately depend upon them. Golden moments may be monumental to humanity, such as stopping a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, but they can also be help with a vehicle break down or a weekend plumbing crisis. It can be listening to them after a loss of a loved one or in a fit of anger over an injustice. It can be in receiving some homemade artwork from a child who is thrilled at their first finger painting that they made just for you as they tell you what each thing is on the paper and the fantastic story behind it. What grand imaginations our children have! Listening is so important to knowing someone. Do it without distraction!
I have had relatives– uncles, cousins, as well as one of my sons– who fought in wars and told me stories of those who had the mental fortitude to endure tremendous hardship as well as those who gave up, even soldiers who committed suicide in their barracks. From what I can tell, a lot had to do with the family support at home and/or the hope of support upon their return home. I have not fought in wars, so I am not speaking from personal experience. I have, however, endured some very difficult, even life-threatening battles myself that supports what I have heard from others. What I heard was that these soldiers who endured believed they were fighting to protect those they loved and would return to them some day, or at least were fighting for those back home because they felt loyalty to them. They didn’t just fight to save themselves and their fellow troops, though that is obviously a significant motivation, but many had the mindset that they were fighting for their loved ones at home and to be able to return triumphantly to them. Some have endured incredible torture and overcome what seemed like impossible odds to get back home. One relative of mine was on two war ships both sunk within a 24 hour period, and he survived those attacks and cold waters through persistence as well as the rescue efforts of others, of course! I believe it was the memories and thoughts of these loved ones and the hopes and dreams stored deep in their minds’ reserves that fed their will and pushed their bodies onward. In difficult times, it is the snip-its of video that play in our mind’s eye. From my perspective, these golden moments include the photographs of loved ones, the words from letters we have read, the key phrases of telephoned messages, the video of special moments re-lived, the majestic images that moved our souls and we stood together praising God for His creation, the events that stirred us to tears whether in joy or grief, the tender and adoring look upon the face of one who loves us and we love, the thrilled look in our young child’s eyes when we get home carrying a surprise for them, and the shared hopes and dreams of those loved ones who depend upon us, as well as the aspirations we have to pursue adventures, create great things, and become a person of significance. These are some of the “golden moments” that come to my mind, but there are surely many other types of moments that motivate others. It may be a father who said you couldn’t that replays in your mind, as you know that you can and are certainly going to prove him wrong. These golden moments are those moments that we store away in our memory as significant and precious, even if they were painful, and that help drive us onward. They give us hope, courage, and motivate us onward. Even if some of these people with whom we shared these moments are gone, we believe that we carry on in their stead and want to make them proud or we want to see their work, legacy, or dreams completed, so we invest ourselves to finish what they could not. We want to return to the special places we shared together. We see ourselves as part of their legacy, as they invested in us, and we believe we can carry it forward to others.
As believers and followers of the Son of God, we have hope of seeing other believers again and telling them “the rest of the story”. We are invested and strengthened to go forward because of those who were in our life, those who are in our life, and those who will be in our life in the future. However, we are only as invested as we are able to know them and focus upon them. We can’t know them without focused silence to listen, really listen to them. This is especially true of our God and His Word. We have to be silent and listen to Him above all. In our silence, we can hear Him speak to us through His word, His Spirit, and through those who follow Him. If there is too much noise, we will not hear His still small voice calling to us. His Word has much to teach us about who to trust and about being people of integrity and trusting people of integrity.
Proverbs 27:1-19Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?Open rebuke is better than secret love.Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
This article, I hope, will inspire you to look up from the computer, smart phone, iPad, or pull out the ear buds and take a break from the hard work of providing and prepping as you can to focus on listening more to friends and family, to look around you, and to record life in your memories and listen intently to others. Know their hearts and heed their wise counsel. Absorb the golden moments that are fleeting and too often missed because of the noise of our busy lives.
I write this to myself. I am a multi-tasker. I always have many things spinning around in my head– new business ideas, project ideas, ideas for how to help loved ones, article ideas, prayers for people I know in need, and just a lot of wheels churning around. However, I realize how important it is “to be still” as God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is often in the quiet times that we are able to know God and also others. It is in those moments when I focused on someone or some beautiful aspect of God’s creation that I built my mind’s storehouse of “golden memories”. The funny times, the sweet times, the sorrowful times, the miraculous moments of children’s births and other amazing events, the powerful and humbling experiences, the majestic mountain views, the inspirational sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, mountains, or prairies, and more all came when I was quiet and focused enough for a moment to soak them into my mind’s eye and store them away in the treasure chest of my memory. Even when I am not with these people I love and with whom I shared these moments, I can remember and be strengthened. We have shared, and I recall.
As a mother watching the community children get off the school buses this time of year, I am also reminded about the silence a parent should have about they ask their children about their day to listen as they return from school or outings with friends. There are precious few “golden moments” when a child enters the home that they have a desire to share about their experiences of the day, before their minds move on and the excitement over what has happened is gone, as is the opportunity to hear about it and share in it. If you are not home to greet them with a smile, a cookie, and a hug, you will miss those golden moments with them, and one day they will be grown and possibly living far away, distant in both body and in heart. Our culture is all about the “now experience”, when rather it is the roots of the past that hold us strong when troubling winds blow and the storms of life try to toss us around. Friends and family may be with us to help, or they may not. Those who have stood with us and shared with us are the most invested and most likely to be the ones not tossed aside easily. Are you investing with your silent focus ready to listen and share in the moment?
Take some time to listen and be silent to share in special “golden” moments. Listen to what is in the hearts of those you care about and those you are partnering with in life, business, and survival. Go for coffee. It will not only help you through storms, but it will give you sweet memories for the golden years of life, too. Build a storehouse of precious memories and relationships that are an emotional larder, if you will. It’s good for survival in hard times, and it is good for making life better in all times!
I’m providing one of my favorite cookie recipes below. Make some cookies to share while you listen to someone you care about share with you what’s on their heart, or do something memorable together. Focus on those who are important to build memories that will sustain you in the times to come.
Sarah’s Recipe for Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/8 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips (or substitute extra of either other type of chocolate chip, if milk chocolate unavailable)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mash the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl with a spatula or with mixer until creamy and smooth (2-3 minutes).
- Add egg and vanilla and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a small bowl; dump into the butter mixture and mix until combined.
- Fold the semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips into the mixture.
- Arrange dough onto the prepared baking sheet using a small scoop or large spoon.
- Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
- Makes 12-16 cookies. (I often make a double batch and freeze the extra, but they don’t last long.)