Ignore, for a minute, the tremendous irony of the title.
Some time ago, a friend of mine who is a Benedictine monk (and priest) shared with me a remark made by his novice master: “Every now and then, try to have an unpublished thought.”
That small remark has stuck with me in the back of my mind ever since. In this age of social media, when any thought I have can be published anywhere, anytime I choose, how often do I publish useless thoughts — that is, not just things that hurt people, but vain things that neither build up nor tear down? Things that are said merely for the sake of speaking, or perhaps earning a “like”?
How often have I published downright stupid thoughts that I later regretted … all because I simply thought something and that thought made its way directly to my mouth? (Or keyboard, as the case may be.)
I’m not here to shame social media or occasional frivolousness. But if a thought isn’t doing someone good, then it is noise at best. And we already have so much noise in the world. So much that we often can’t hear the voice of the good and true and beautiful, which is softer and prefers silence.
It becomes important, then, to train ourselves to hold back — as the novice master advised — so that we become practiced in discernment of thoughts and more appreciative of silence.
In fact, in the Rule of St. Benedict, which forms the basis of Benedictine monastic life, St. Benedict writes, “…there are times when [even] good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.” How much more, then, as he goes on to say, should we avoid words that are evil (that tear down and tear apart) as well as words that are vain, that do no one any good.
How can I better appreciate silence today?