Silence and Friendship: Another Perspective

When I spoke of silence and friendship before, my focus was on those things that you cannot speak about with a friend that ultimately break the friendship.

There is another kind of silence that is acceptable, though sometimes uncomfortable, to me, and that is the kind of silence where you hold your tongue.

Granted, there are times when we all need to hold our tongue; those are so universally recognized that I don’t need to discuss them. Other times, though, the decision to speak or not depends on our sensitivity to and awareness of the other person. If there is something I would like to say, but feel hesitant to, then I take the time required to think about it, and to ask myself why I am hesitating.

Sometimes I am hesitating because I want to say something but am not confident of my ability to say it with diplomacy and care; if I don’t think I can say it in a way that will make it possible for the other person to receive it, then there’s no point in saying it. After all, what’s the difference between a communication not shared and a communication not received? Not an awful lot, though sometimes I’ll say something knowing full well that the person can’t or won’t hear what I have to say, because I believe that one day it will make sense to them. I’ve been on the receiving end of such remarks, and though at the time I received them, I didn’t understand, when I later got it, I was grateful to the person who had said it, because I think they were in part instrumental in my getting the idea—however eventually that was.

With other people, though, my sense is that they are either dealing with so many other issues that they just cannot yet take on another, or that they are moving so slowly through their life lessons that whatever it is I am seeing, they are not going to get to in this lifetime. So I say nothing.

Other times I hesitate because I have the sense that, were I to say something, that person would be so offended that they would drop the friendship, and the friendship means more to me than perhaps uselessly speaking up. I did lose a friend for a year that way. She was on the phone with me,  complaining, as she had so many times before, about a life situation as though she were a victim of circumstances. My heart went out to her, but I didn’t like being taken through the emotional wringer time and again about the same issue when I knew full well she had deliberately and consciously made the choice to be in that situation. So I told her that she had chosen her circumstances (rather bluntly, I’m sorry to say), and she stopped speaking with me. A year later, she forgave me, admitted the truth of what I had said, and had come to a better way of thinking about it herself so that she found purpose in her choices rather than victimhood, and we have remained friends since.

Even so, it is sometimes difficult to know when to speak and when not to. I trust my inner guidance; if my heart is warning me not to say something, I stay quiet. If it is just my head telling me not to say anything, and my heart is guiding me to speak up, then I do my best to say it as quietly and gently as I can.

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