The Silent Treatment

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I have a daily prayer practice. I’d like to call it meditation, which sounds so much cooler, but I’d be lying. I don’t light incense, or chant. I don’t clear my mind. I am much more likely to have a thought, follow it and watch it unfold. However, I do breathe deeply. I do invite the divine presence (s) to be with me. I do try to be honest about my life – what I’ve done and failed to do, what has made laugh and/ or cry. I look for patterns, try to find perspective, and ask for grace. Having a serious prayer practice isn’t nearly as holy, or pious as it sounds, but I do know that it’s useful, or has been for me.

On my best days, I have an hour before my family wakes to sit and pray. But most days aren’t my “best days,” so more often than not, I get 30 minutes or so, and on the weekends, I might neglect to set the alarm and take what I can get later on. But last night, I did something that I have never done before. I was tossing and turning; it was close to midnight and I reached over and turned off my alarm, not because I wanted to sleep in (which I’ve done often enough before), but because God and I had had a bit of an argument the day before and I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to Him yet. In short, I was planning on giving Him the silent treatment.

He, however, had other plans. I woke up this morning and thought to myself smugly, “Ha! I showed him. I slept right through our time,” but when I looked over at the clock, it was precisely 5:58 a.m., the exact time we begin every morning. Ha! He showed me. He seemed to be saying, “Whether you planned to speak to me or not, you’re up, so you may as well.”  I’ve been doing this for long enough to know that He was right, so I got up and began my prayer with equal parts relief and trepidation.

The danger with giving someone the silent treatment is that you’ll stay there for far too long. I think that there is a time for silence when you’re angry, when you’ve gotten past the point where words are useful, and they’ve become blunt force objects whose sole purpose is to injure and maim. Most of us have probably learned where that threshold is and can hold our tongues. However, the silent treatment is a different weapon all together. It’s meant to punish the other, but more effectively punishes us. While we might stop speaking our thoughts out loud, we typically launch into self-justifying monologues in our own heads, rants of George Carlin-esque proportions. We inflate the righteousness of our own position, while reducing the other person, usually someone we love, to an insignificant speck in the cosmic scheme of things. And then there’s that awkward moment when you do have to speak again, when you have to let go of your anger, and find a way to move on.

You can see why this might be a problem when your adversary is God.

So I sat on the couch, closed my eyes and sighed. The rants, the anger, the dirty looks are useless when your opponent is Love, boundless and unchangeable. There is nothing I can do that will hurt Him. Even if I’m angry, if I stamp my feet, and try to run away, I can’t. There is nowhere I can go that isn’t in the palm of His hand, inside the circle of His arms. The silent treatment is useless against unconditional Love.

So when I got over myself and began to speak again, He was there, waiting patiently for me. There was no awkwardness, no apologies needed. He was ready to listen, willing to hear whatever it was I had to say. And so I tried again to express what I was feeling and I tried even harder to listen to what He might have to say on the subject. No, I’m not a mystic, or a religious nut. I never hear His voice, or words coming down from the Heavens. But I hear Him all the same, if I am paying attention. If I am open to it, if I am aware, then His response unfolds in the every day occurrences of my life, in something I read, a movie I watch, a conversation I have. Sometimes, He even deigns to speak through a Facebook post.

After thinking about it, I’ll probably try to avoid giving anyone the silent treatment in the near future. Silence?  Yes, as long as it’s necessary and helpful. But mute anger? I think I’ll pass. And I hope that the next time someone (probably Keara) tries it on me, I’ll react differently. I hope I can take a lesson from God’s playbook and remain uninjured and unoffended. I’ll try to communicate that no matter how far she goes, my love goes farther and that I will be waiting here patiently, ready to listen, no apology necessary.

That’s what Love does, or so I’ve heard.

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5 thoughts on “The Silent Treatment

  1. Thanks Ali, in the midst of this season, so needed to be reminded that my silent treatment I try to impose on God only hurts me. I then try to have a pity party but no one wants to come;-) So I get myself up and I feel His grace in different moments getting me through it.

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” Romans 8

  2. Clara, I never imagined that you would find the time in this season of your life, with all that you have on your heart and mind, to read this blog, but if it helped you at all, I am so grateful and glad that I wrote it.

    You are all in my thoughts,
    Ali

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