“Every man knows if he gets his wife angry, she will nag him. If, however, he gets her really mad, he will receive the silent treatment. Now men, isn’t that worth the extra effort?” the guest speaker said and everyone laughed. Have a good chuckle! I did too! BUT when I gave the comment more thought I felt that it is actually NOT funny to be on the receiving end of the manipulative power of the silent treatment, whether in a marriage, a friendship or any other relationship.
It is risky business to leave it up to the receiver to decipher what this silent treatment means. Silence is not as silent as many may think, but rather suggests many conflicting things. "You are not worth my time and effort to talk this out.” "I've made up my mind and your talking won't change it.” "I'm not open to you.” "I won't give you the satisfaction.” Silence says, "I can only cope by believing that I am right.” Or "I don't want your perspective.” Silence even shouts, "I need to be in control.” "You can't make me talk to you.” Perhaps it says, "I'm afraid of rejection if I tell you how I feel.” "I'm afraid you may be right.” "I'm fearful we'll fight if I talk.” "I'm hurting too much to talk about it.” "I'm intimidated by you and your communication skills, you always win.” "I wish I were stronger.” "If I talk to you about the issue, I will lose my composure.” "My feelings don't matter, so I'll be quiet.” "Please love me through this.” "I'm afraid, I’m embarrassed.”
Silence speaks volumes!
Silence speaks louder than words!
It hurts more, too!
Would you like to receive this silent treatment? Wouldn’t it be much wiser to honestly and openly talk things out whether emotional or painful? We ought always to have a soft heart and hear the other side of the story, feeling neither threatened nor vengeful. How easy it is to misunderstand or to be misunderstood. Even though tone and facial expressions play a huge role, it is the words we use that are a big part of communicating, Just being human brings with it communication problems. Disappointments happen everywhere. At least we have words! We can learn to express ourselves and have our needs met in win-win situations.
Brenda Williams Morse has said it best. “How easy it is, when something goes wrong, to clam up, cool off, back up, push away, turn off, tune out - and use every other imaginable ploy but to talk to each other: to say that we hurt, that we're angry, that we need, that we're lonely - that we're human.
There is no human problem that cannot at least be bettered by the bridge of words. Your words may hurt me, but your silence is devastating. Please give me words. I can survive those. But silence suggests indifference, uncaring. Words, even ugly ones, signal that you care.
None of the emotional work can be done without words. Silence won't do it. Smiles won't do it. Even prayers won't do it. Don't be afraid to use words. It's the only way we'll ever know who we are. But use them carefully, because words can harm. They can crush the spirit in us. But, even destructive words are far better than silence. You have to care to be angry, you have to care to hate. And if you slay me with your words, I know that you care. You wouldn't spend the energy crushing me if you didn't. So use your words on me whether family, friend, relative, boss, neighbour, enemy, and then I'll know just where you stand. So let's learn how to use those words in the best way we can. Let's use them to find each other again.”
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” There is no kindness, tender-heartedness, forgiveness, or opportunity for growing in grace in the silent treatment. To realize the worth of another’s contribution in our life, we need to accept them as they are. Speak kindness into each other’s lives. Build bridges rather than walls. Build a gate into your boundaries. Is not the person with that unique personality to whom you give the silent treatment, the one God sent into your life as a catalyst for change?
The silent treatment does not achieve the desired positive change. Speak the truth in love, always with the intent to connect, heal and strengthen all relationships. Let Christ free you from the bondage of fear! Growth in love and understanding will follow!