Silence truly possesses the power to dispell animosity, unfairness, and grudges. We are all familiar with the phrase, ‘silence is golden’ however, silence can also aid and abet crime, ‘evil wins when good men stay silent’. So, how and when should we keep silent? How can we use silence and what benefits can we reap from its presence?
For the most part, silence is needed when an internal examination of ourselves is necessary. For example, when you are belittled, you should not say words of hatred. When you are offended, you should not say words of lunacy. When you receive compliments, try not to be so exultant that you utter words of arrogance. When something good happens to another, beware of your jealousy so as not to start a rumor. To keep silent in these cases is to take time for growth and learning…
Why? Because everything has a cause, and the most valuable quality of a person is the ability to look back at oneself with honesty with the aim of self-improvement. If you resent the one belittling you, wouldn’t your heart be broad and generous? If you argue with others, doesn’t it mean that you are placing yourself at the same level as them? Encountering difficulties in life are not necessarily bad, because you have the chance to accomplish yourself.
Silence allows you to reflect on past events, understand the causes and results and see through your errors and mistakes. Keeping silent can speak volumes and can often allow for more genuine communication. It calms down turbulence and can sweep away negative feelings.
The Greek philosopher Socrates once conceded, “The only thing I know, is that I know nothing.”
He understood that knowledge is like a broad sea, what we know is just a drop in the ocean. People should only talk about what they know well, maintain an open mind, keep silent when needed and respectfully listen to what they have not witnessed. If you insisted on your opinion, you shut the door to knowledge, and grow no further than the end of your own nose.
Silence also gives us the chance to ponder, thereby thinking into being masterpieces, greatness, cognizance, maturity, mental reflection, and enlightenment. The pre-eminent writer W. Goethe used to say,
“Talent develops in quiet places, a character in the full current of human life.”
Do not interrupt when seeing others meditating, as the silence at that time is indeed essential and meaningful.
But silence does not mean hushing when someone is talking to you. Silence is not the same as being passive and indifferent to surrounding events. Inappropriate silence also makes people suspect dishonesty or distrust, leading to decreased faith between people. Likewise, keeping silent can be in some situations a cowardly act, when silence is held when surrendering to evil.
Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
If we allow injustice to prevail through our silence or neglect, even in the smallest of ways, we allow injustice to prevail overall. If silence is for the sake of oneself, then it would be fueling power for the evil. According to the logic of life, if you support evil, it would come back to harm you.
In his Jinxin – “Exhausting all his heart” book, Mencius wrote,
“What man can do without learning is a result of the inborn quality to be good, what men know without contemplating is a result of the goodness in conscience.”
“Not thinking” here is not considering nothing, Mencius means conscience is not affected by selfish thoughts that are self-protective as well as other calculating concepts. Seeing people dying but not saving them, seeing turbulence but keeping silent, seeing crime with suspicion, they are not conscience.