I am coming to appreciate the value of silence. I don’t mean just silence in the sense that there are no words. I mean heart-silence.

Some people, when you tell them your emotional state, what you’re experiencing, respond with advice or suggestions. I’ve noticed this for awhile, and it comes in several forms. When I was still involved heavily in church, people would say “Well God wants people to do this and that because the Bible says this and that.” Instantly their word became gospel, of course, and I was expected to take their advice. In recovery, I find people expounding on certain techniques couched in their “experience strength and hope” which they expect me to then take on. Because it’s experience, strength, and hope, of course, and I’m supposed to be learning from the experience, strength, and hope of others. This isn’t intended to knock ESH; everything I’ve learned in recovery I’ve learned from other people. I DO need people’s wisdom quite often. But sometimes, I need heart-silence.

Rarely do I find a person who will not respond to my emotions with “well I did this” or “this approach is helpful” or “well maybe you need to do this” and instead respond with simple heart-silence. You know what I mean. When someone holds your words in a sacred way, there is a certain silence to it. They might say something, or ask a question for clarification. But they aren’t trying to fix. And in that, silence happens.

Actually, I really find those moments spiritual. That’s how my interaction with my Higher Power is. Most of the time, my HP isn’t trying to fix me when I’m communicating with It. Most of the time, It just listens. Soaks in. Reminds me that I am loved.

So when a person in real life responds to me that way, I get a taste of what my HP is like. I relax. I feel heard, seen, and valued. I treasure those moments.

Moments of experiencing heart-silence from others remind me of a place here in Colorado that’s very special to me. It’s a tiny little graveyard out on the eastern plains. It’s silent, so silent that everything inside of me unwinds, like a ball of yarn when you pull on it. There’s a great bowl of sky and a great bowl of earth, and I am clasped gently between them. I am held, as surely as a baby is held in a mother’s womb.

And even though so much of me right now resists “Christian religiosity”, the only word that can really describe the hush of that place is this:



8 Replies to “Heart-Silence”

  1. If you think your task as comforter is to tell me that really, all things considered, it’s not so bad, you do not sit with me in my grief but place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.

    Nicholas Wolfterstorff.

  2. I love this so much. I even wrote a poem about listening like that. It’s called I Will Hold the Space for You: http://aroadlesstraveledblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/i-will-hold-space-for-you.html. And Lasseter, LOVE that quote! I’m gonna “borrow” it to post on at least one of the grief communities I’m a part of.

    Taking nothing away from that (I hope), I’ve often thought that, as long as I give the other person’s words plenty of space, thoughtfully sharing my experience–as a *story*–to be OK. I mean, if I’m unburdening and the other person’s experienced something similar or “the same” as me, and they share what happened to them, what they tried, what worked, I might actually perk up (with interest). Because they’re just telling a story. If I find it to resonate, I might try something that helped them (it’ll feel more like my idea than if they “should”-ed on me); if I don’t, oh well.

    But as soon as they go into “should” mode, or–one of my least favorites–“you just have to ___,” that’s when I feel decidedly UN-heard out, UN-empathized with.


    1. I think sharing experience as a story is different than sharing experience as “advice”, or “should-ing” on someone, as you said. (Thanks for reminding me of that phrase – should-ing! Exactly what I mean) There’s a tiny line on that one though. I think it really depends on whether the person’s first intention is to just hear, and listen, and be with you. For me, it helps if someone asks if I want their advice or their words before they share it with me.

      1. My pleasure. 🙂 Thanks for reading! BTW – read and enjoyed your poem. Fantastic, totally relates to what I’m talking about. Thank you so much for sharing.

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