Why silence is deadly

"In Silence" (2008) by Chiharu Shiota
“In Silence” (2008) by Chiharu Shiota


There are many ways in which it’s been said, again and again, that silence is golden…a gift…a wise strategy…the best answer.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We do need silence, just as we need solitude. So that we can listen. And hear. So that we can understand. So that we can rest.

But for the most part, silence is poison. The ultimate lie. The easy way out, and therefore, the ultimate betrayal of ourselves. Of others. Of what is deeply and truly meaningful in life…the things we believe in and should stand for.

Silence shelters us from risk and the possibility of facing unpleasant consequences. But just like any numbness, it shelters us from the good things too. It shelters us from pleasant surprises and rare opportunities. It shelters us from the miraculous.

It is a pitiful sheltering. So unworthy of us that it becomes obscene. Because underneath it all, there is always a gentle soul waiting and deserving to speak.

Patience and diplomacy are not to be confused with, or substituted for silence. Both are most necessary and advantageous.

Silence, beyond a healthy and periodic measure, is a trick. Nothing but a cheap alibi for an immature conscience attempting to escape self-examination and instead, trying to mimic a model of superior wisdom.

Silence is a desperate act. Of cowardice. Of aggression.

It is a cloud under which everything withers.

Every time I come across Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, I shudder. They fit any context where silence has poisoned the playing field:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


And yes, my words are harsh. But silence kills.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Jeffrey Wu says:

    Dear Joanna, I’ve been reading all your posts so far, but this is one that strikes me to the core.


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