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The unseen damage of Silence

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.”

– St. Maximilian Kolbe.

The opposite of Love is not Hate but Indifference. Observing wrongdoing and watching from a distance while keeping quiet about it in order to maintain peace and to avoid friction is actually enabling the situation at hand to get worse. Suppressing truth or even unintentionally downplaying the importance or urgency of any topic causes damage. Silence for the sake of ‘peace’ prevents the Holy Spirit from carrying out a divine work of healing, restoration and empowerment!

We please God when we partake in exposing truth, and in bringing about justice, even in the smaller and seemingly insignificant situations of life.

Silence is Violence

Encouragement of wrongdoing is done not only through words but also through silence. A word unspoken denies a future blessing to a person or community, either directly or indirectly. By keeping silent and by doing nothing about a situation, one plays a role in the cause of the damage.

The saying that “silence is violence” comes into relevance. Many a time, a message NOT communicated conveys a stronger and contrary message by virtue of silence, and in turn, causes corresponding harm. Absence of timely communication is the reason behind much pain and suffering in the world today.

“If you don’t stand up for all that is right, then understand that you are part of the reason why there is so much wrong in the world.”

– Suzy Kassem

Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

– James 4:17

Breaking Silence

Speaking up for a cause for the present or future benefit of others is definitely in the heart of God. It is only a question of when, where and how. Through prayer, direction and wisdom need to be sought from above. God provides help in mysterious and unexpected ways.

Methods of breaking silence vary. When one method, perhaps that of a gentle confrontation (Prov 25:9, Gal 6:1), is ignored or not taken seriously by a receiving end, it may be required to involve a third party, or resort to exposing truth in a public forum (Matt 18:15-17). Whether it is to settle a dispute, a deed to prevent future damage, saying something to reduce sin, or even a small act to protect future victims of others’ negligence, all these involve an effort of some action and a call for allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the way through prayer.

Let the underlying motives of voicing out be that of love for God and love for neighbour. If resentment or pride is present, the purpose is lost and nothing good may come out of it.

Positive consequences of voicing out:

  • A clear conscience in obedience to God, whether the results are seen or not.
  • Repentance and an inner change of heart of the person in error.
  • Positive changes in a flawed system, thus providing future benefits to others.
  • Prevention of future sin and wrongdoing. 
  • Witnessing to others and being a good example in standing up for truth when opportunity arises.
  • Above all, speaking up appropriately allows for God to do some divine work of healing, restoration and empowerment, which may or may not be understood or seen by human eyes.

Know the truth and the truth will set you free.

 – Jn 8:32

The aspect of People-pleasing

Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 

– Gal 1:10

Yielding to a fear of standing up for truth is letting the Lord down. This is the case even within a family or among best friends. Jesus himself must have experienced some rejection when his followers left him when they were unable to relate to his words (Jn 6:65-67). This must have been painful to him. In limited human understanding, one can say that his ways or methods of communication could have been better, more prudent and could have been done without causing friction or offense. We have to accept the reality that when truth comes out, it brings freedom but always at a cost.

Vindication is from the Lord

Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

–  Gal 6:9

In standing up for truth and breaking silence, making a few mistakes with the right intentions is still a better option than not acting at all, which is enabling a spiral of silence. God sees the sincerity of heart. Obedience is what matters. The way forward is to avoid indifference, depend on God, seek direction through prayer, and then take necessary action.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Neglecting to act could be a refusal to listen to God and may end up in unnoticed disobedience. When we compromise on truth, life may still go on seemingly peacefully. However, whether one is aware of it or not, a false spirit of complacency is entertained, leading to a subtle, slow and steady damage, both externally in the outward situation, and internally in the soul as well.

Here then, lies the unseen damage of silence.

“Not only for every idle word but also for every idle silence will we have to give an account.”

– St. Ambrose

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