The Awkward Silence

They say it only takes 4 seconds for a silence to become “awkward”. You know the feeling. You're with a friend or a group of people and suddenly it’s quiet. Those four seconds pass and suddenly your heart starts beating. Sweat starts forming on your forehead. The quiet feels heavy and weird. Your mind is racing, searching for anything, anything in the world to talk about. You try your best to break the silence, but no words come out. Everyone feels it, but no one can do a thing about it. There it is, staring you in the face… the dreaded awkward silence. 

Or, maybe you're all alone and there is nothing to do. The kids are at school or in bed, and suddenly there is nothing to fill the space. It could also be one of those in-between moments where there is a little lull. It is quiet and still, and you find yourself very uncomfortable. Maybe some anxiety is coming to the surface, or maybe some thoughts you don’t want to think. Your mind starts racing and it’s too much to bear. The silence is almost deafening, so you reach for something, anything to fill it. You turn on the TV, or you pick up the phone and text a friend. Maybe you open social media and start scrolling. Your to-do list starts running through your mind and you suddenly feel the need to get it all done. You find your body revving up and you just can’t sit still. 

Whether we are with other people or alone, we all have awkward silences. In this day and age of social media and constant busyness, we have more and more things to fill these silences. We almost never ever have to have silence. When we are with friends we can conveniently pick up our phones if no one is talking. When we are home, we can scroll. We feel anxious when we are doing nothing and search desperately for something that needs to be done. We have so little silence in our lives that when we do, what could be just “silence” is now “awkward silence”, and it’s our own worst enemy! 

It seems like ages ago, but I remember back in the day before smart phones and social media. I don’t remember what I did to fill a lot of my time, but I do know that I loved driving. When I was driving, I would have my best thoughts and ideas. I would write them down on little pieces of paper. I had deep thoughts and sometimes even poems as I thought about my life and my dreams. I had some of my best thinking happen back then. I don’t know if it’s because I have gotten older or if it’s because social media and technology have stolen them from me, but I don’t have those thoughts like I used to. 

Is it because now we have become so immersed in other peoples lives on social media, that we don’t have time to think about our own? Are we trying to drown out all of our own thoughts and emotions with everything else around us? What are we afraid will come up if we sit with the silence? All of the busyness, the running around, the technology and social media has stolen our quiet time, but in doing so has taken so much more. It has taken a big piece of who we are. Having our quiet time and therefore our own thoughts is what makes us, and I think it’s time we reclaim OUR IDENTITY! It is time to stop thinking of the silence as awkward, and start seeing it for what it could be - a time to breathe, think, and reconnect with what lives deep down inside of us. 

So what if we just trusted God in these awkward silences? What if we were expectant instead of anxious in these moments? Let’s reframe what silence means in our head. It’s no longer a bad thing, but a moment to fill up our minds with our own thoughts and ideas. Maybe we could go deeper in our friendships. There is nothing better than a friend you can be comfortably silent with, am I right? Remember that silence is inevitable, it doesn’t mean you are a bad friend or a boring person. I know that we can learn to embrace the silence with a little practice. 

Let’s pay attention to what happens in those silences. What comes up? What emotions or thoughts come that you have been pushing back down? Maybe if we recognize these sometimes uncomfortable feelings and work through them and sit with them, we could really truly heal those wounds we’ve been protecting for so long. We could rediscover lost creativity or find a solution to a problem we’ve been struggling with.

Believe me, I am by no means a pro at any of this, but I want to do better. I want to be able to sit with myself and others in the silence and be okay with it.

So together, lets breathe into the (not so awkward) silences and take them in stride, just 4 seconds at a time. 

--Cori Maffett

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