The Humility In Silence

Ben - Topeka, Kansas
Entered on March 6, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I love noise. Not just music, but sound in general. I read in crowded places, do homework with the television on, and sleep with a radio blaring. Even as I write this essay, my headphones are playing alternative, and I couldn’t write without it. But I believe in the importance of silence.

I believe that the best thing people can do is to learn how to listen. The trouble is that most understand how to hear, but not truly to listen. The ability to distinguish between the two has become something of a lost art.

On occasion I have caught myself not listening to someone speaking directly to me, nodding along and adding the occasional “uh huh” or “right” at the correct moment, waiting in anticipation for him or her to finish so that I could speak. It rarely occurs to me that someone might be doing exactly the same thing to me.

Often I seem to be set too firmly in my own opinions and conceptions. On the occasions when I open myself to new ideas, I tend to approach them with an attitude of narrow-mindedness. I need to learn to silence myself. I think the best way to appreciate something is not to let myself be distracted by my own temperament, hang-ups, and pre-dispositions.

Once, when I was hiking with friends in Colorado, we had reached the top of Estes Cone just as the sun was rising. The view was breathtaking—I’m sure it was. As I sat on a ledge overlooking a valley of blue hills and green streams, I couldn’t shut myself up. “Wow,” I kept thinking, “this is so amazing. You better really take this moment in. I mean, not just see it, but absorb it. You forgot the camera, and you may never be here again, so make the most of it.” I was all too aware of myself. I was so anxious that I couldn’t shut off my annoying internal monologue and truly lose myself in the moment.

It’s important to express yourself, to stand up and fight for your convictions. But sometimes it’s important to shut up, if only long enough to learn something new.

Silence has taught me to be humble, in that it forces me to see from other points of view. It teaches me to be worldly, as I am often surprised at the wisdom I find in others. It teaches me to appreciate life, as some things can only be perceived when there are no distractions.

When I first tried writing this essay, I was petrified. I couldn’t write a word, because a thousand expectations were flying through my head.

It finally struck me: I couldn’t speak because I wouldn’t be quiet about it.

I wouldn’t let my own thoughts be expressed without first straining them through filters. I decided to try a different approach. I would write an essay, but I wouldn’t let my words get in the way. I would let silence speak for me.