A young wife e-mails an elder in their church about the bullying behavior of her husband. It took everything she had to write the letter. Her arm still throbbed from where her husband had grabbed her the night before. She had known this elder for many years and now was reaching out to him. After an hour of thinking through every word of the short letter, she sent it.
She heard nothing. Weeks went by. Nothing.
One Sunday morning, she saw him at church and asked if he had received her note. “Yes, I did.” He said, “I’ve known you both for years and I just can’t imagine him doing that to you. I didn’t know what to say.”
So, he was silent.
When families suffer. When a marriage is in crisis. When someone is depressed. When a young woman has questions.
What does it mean when we are silent?
A sixteen year-old boy is about to go out on a Friday evening. His dad has heard rumors about his friends. Their reputation is not good. Just the other evening, the dad went to his son’s car to check an insurance card. As he opened the glove box, he saw under the seat the corner of an unused condom still in the package.
This dad said nothing.
How is this boy to interpret his father’s silence?
- Silence can mean that we are fearful. We would rather be silent than speak and risk conflict.
- Silence can mean that we don’t care. Perhaps this is the language of the apathetic.
- Silence can mean that we do not value another enough to get involved.
Consider Adam’s silence in the Garden as the tempter goes after Eve. There is nothing in the text that suggests that he ever stood up for her. Rather, he was silent as the tempter went after her. When the tempter began to question her, Adam was silent.
I wonder if one of the most powerful ways that other human beings are devalued and diminished is through our silence.