Some say the idiom, Silence is golden, dates back to ancient Egyptians. It’s certainly been repeated often in our lifetimes, usually to remind children to hold down the racket and allow for some peace and quiet.
But I believe silence is more than just pleasurable calm and the absence of chaos. It’s such a vital ingredient to our growth that Satan has actually mounted an attack against it.
How many people have you seen exercising, walking, skateboarding, riding a bus—all wearing earbuds, listening to something? Hundreds, right? It’s as if our society cannot manage a second of silence, and must fill it with something—anything. Music, words, anything but original thought.
I’m not saying earbuds or headphones are of the devil, but feeling the need to have constant electronic input is. Being uncomfortable with your own thoughts means you’re not thinking for yourself—someone else is filling your brain and occupying your attention. I’ve heard teenagers describe the pounding music that bleeds into the air around them as “an escape.” It numbs their pain like a drug, and offers them an alternative to solving life’s problems.
And, while books on tape or recorded lectures are a fabulous modern invention we all should consider, there’s a problem with people who cannot abide ten minutes without them. Sometimes this manifests itself as an addiction to information, and “news junkies” admit they feel compelled to be hearing the latest events at all times. Being informed, and occasionally enjoying a speech, a sporting event, or a piece of music—these are all enriching elements of life, but if they fill our every waking moment, we have not allowed for the generation of our own unique thoughts. It’s as if we’ve hit the “off” switch to our own brain’s creative powers.
Persistent interruptions have the same detrimental effect. We’ve all seen tempers flare when children at home won’t stop pestering their parent who’s trying to pay bills or concentrate on something important. Similarly at work, a disruptive environment makes employees irritable and less productive. There is a basic human need to think, and when someone robs us of this, our natural inclination is to resist their intrusions.
Creativity requires reflection. It requires that your own brain have breathing space. Long, quiet walks are revered by inventors, writers, anyone who needs to mull something over and simply think. Just as overbooked kids never get to watch the clouds tumble by, people with over-stimulated brains never get to ponder, wonder, or have an “aha!” moment. Silence is like oxygen; it invigorates our brains.
But silence is essential for more than just generating our own ideas and opinions. It’s crucial to receiving revelation. Picture someone reading scriptures or praying, and then dashing off to some activity that requires their complete attention. How can they hear answers or promptings?
Even Christ went off alone, meditated, fasted, and spent serious amounts of time without continual outside input. Why do you think our modern-day prophets have urged us to spend time pondering, as well? Because it’s vital. And it works.
Our own spiritual growth is also dependent upon having quiet time to reflect. We need to examine our lives, take an inventory of our strengths and weaknesses, repent, forgive, set goals, reach out to our Heavenly Father for help, and present a plan to him. How can we do any of this if we have constant sound pumping into our heads? We have placed our personal progress on a back burner we never check.
And the Adversary knows all of this, so he cleverly masks the noise as intellectual stimulation, learning, music appreciation, and socializing. Have we ever lived in a time when there were more distractions from quiet contemplation?
Here are some ways to take back your brain:
1.Limit texting. Is there a teenager in this world whose thumbs don’t become a blur as they text countless times a day? Put the phone aside for a set amount of time each day, when you can let your brain consider loftier matters than passing conversation that can wait. Definitely resist texting during meals when time with one’s family should be undivided.
2.Cut your social media time in half. First, set a timer whenever you find yourself on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other time gobbler, and add it up at the end of the day. After the shock wears off, put yourself on a withdrawal schedule.
3.Make a list of the videogames and computer game apps you use. How big a part of your day do they consume? Do your friends or family members ever tease you about how much time you spend on these? They’re not teasing.
4.When you get in the car, do you ever drive along in silence? Or is something always blaring from the speakers? Try driving without a single other sound in the car, and see what your brain thinks of, by itself. Ponder the scriptures you last read, the things you’ve been praying about, and the things you’re grateful for. Notice the world around you. Think about the people you’re assigned to home teach or visit teach. If others are with you, talk to them.
5.Never turn on the TV to “see what’s on.” Make deliberate choices and only watch what is edifying or necessary. And never leave it running as background noise.
6.Don’t let kids go into their rooms alone with smart phones. These are computers with access to porn, bullying messages, and much more–exactly the same as your family computers, which we’ve been told to place in a public spot where we can thwart temptation to visit inappropriate sites. But this isn’t the only problem; when kids can’t pry themselves away from being connected, they can’t have the kind of quiet time that leads to great insights.
7.Put the earbuds away for awhile. Try pursuing your interests without accompaniment. Try studying with every facet of your brain focusing upon the task at hand. See what a little quiet can do.
8.Let your phone answering machine do what you paid for, when you’re meditating or pondering. Don’t allow intrusions into those sacred moments.
9.Schedule getaways. It could be a walk around the block, or a quiet drive to a serene setting. But we need daily moments away from our “to do” lists and away from all the electronics competing for our attention. Get your kids to unplug for awhile, and see how miraculous their brains are, and the amazing concepts they can think of, all on their own.
By understanding the value and the necessity of silence, we can make it priority in our lives, and fight Satan’s efforts to steal it, and to diminish its importance.