In Praise of Silence

For Representational Purposes Only

By Firdous Ahmad Mala and Rouf Ali

EXPRESSING oneself is both an art and a skill. Not all are versed and acquainted with it. Being good at rhetoric and eloquence can make success and popularity come to fruition. However, when nuances of words become nuisances, it is better to sing songs with no lyrics. And one must remember that silence is better than a misuse of the tongue.

A lot of wise people have broken their silence in praise of silence. In the words of Will Rogers, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” One must acknowledge the fact that though it seems counterintuitive, yet silence is sometimes louder and more powerful than speech. This is more suitably the stance to take when one knows not what words to substitute for silence. In the absence of a good and well-knit speech, silence could be a more befitting choice. In the words of Ansel Adams, “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Strangely enough, the tongues seem to be outnumbering the ears. All tongues seem to be wagging like anything. Most ears appear to have been deafened. And all but a few ears seem to have been lent to the tongues. The art of listening ought to be mastered naturally and this skill must be harnessed before one masters the skill of speaking.

Misunderstanding is often a result of hasty judgements, unverified reporting and irresponsible misuse of the tongue. Delaying judgements, scrutinizing reports and responsibly choosing one's words is the need of every hour. Silence is a panacea to a plethora of behavioral ailments.

To Francis Bacon, "Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” To Thomas Carlyle, “Speech is silver, silence is golden.” And to Lau Tzu, “Silence is a source of great strength.” It seems difficult to overstate the importance of silence in a restless and maddening world.

Now, if by silence, we mean discipline, the tongue is not the only organ to watch out for. The heart is to be silenced from wanting the unrealistic and desiring the immoral; the eye is to be silenced from watching the immodest and goggling the opposite; and the hand is to be silenced from making objectionable gestures and grabbing what belongs to others.

It is pertinent to mention that the tongue is a reflection of the brain and the heart. A thought or an emotion can affect one's choice of words. An uneducated and corrupt heart can lead to a spoiled tongue and a selfish idea can lead to a sabotage of peace. A spoiled tongue spits more venom than saliva. It has the potential to wreak every kind of havoc. One must remember that a spark neglected could burn the house.

Having praised silence, one should not and must not take it to mean that one must always be a mute spectator and not be well-versed with the judicious and artful use of the gift of gab. One may, on a jocular note argue that silence is sometimes a thing that is detested the most for a newborn’s silence and the silence of a loved one can be signs of danger and that of frustration. The reader, however, needs to understand that silence is more often a virtue than a vice.

Rumi is said to have said, “The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”

As a middle path, silence and speech ought to be used complementary to each other. An intelligent role-play of silence and speech is precisely what the doctor prescribes. The Greek polymath, Pythagoras is reported to have said, “A fool is known by his speech; and a wise man by silence.”

Let silence be the default, especially when your words are no likely to be better. Let words by the choice when they are likely to result in more good than harm. Regarding the need to exercise silence, Federico Fellini said, “If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet, maybe we could understand something.” In the words of Charles Colton, “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” And as per Epictetus, “Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.”


  • The authors are Assistant Professor Govt. Degree College Sopore and Sr. Assistant professor Govt. Degree College Sopore respectively

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