Can You Hear The Silence?

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a discussion without a side to stand on?

With all of the polarizing conversations (i.e. arguments) going on in our society today, what happens when you don’t fall on one side or the other? It seems like there is little space for those who do not clearly pick a side. Yes to gay marriage or no to gay marriage? Obamacare or privatized healthcare? Legalize it or keep it illegal? Traditional worship or contemporary worship? Israel or Palestine?

In any discussion, is silence an option when you don’t perfectly agree with either option and—even worse—when you can actually understand from where both sides are coming?

Earlier this week I was in such a discussion with a small group of peers. There were those clearly one on side of the argument. There were others firmly on the opposing side of the argument. One of these peers is a very close friend of mine. Although we love and support each other, he and I actually have differing views on the topic being discussed and he encouraged me to speak up. The issues is that my thoughts and research do not lead me clearly to either of the two options. Therefore, neither side has any use for me.

So is silence a healthy option?

Later that same day, I was reading an interesting blog post. I passionately agree with the premise and I loved reading this author’s perspective on the topic. But then I made the mistake of reading the comments below the post. Worthless. You have everyone who agrees wholeheartedly and everyone who vehemently condemns her ideas and then you have those who yell (virtually) at both sides for commenting at all. Think about it—commenting to condemn those who comment. So I don’t comment. I stay silent.

Perhaps this whole post is one big passive-aggressive comment to the commenters. I’m just not convinced that stating your case through speaking (or typing) a bunch of words is an effort well spent when it comes to highly debated topics. After the discussion, what’s different? We typically return to our same home with the same people and the same issues. For me, I know I have a limited amount of energy and a limited amount of words. (Of course we all know people for whom this is not the case.) So why would I expend my limited energy or words on something that has so little impact or application in life? Or is this just a narcissistic view—if it doesn’t affect me, then I don’t care.

So is silence an option? Or is silence irresponsible? Does silence naturally come across as a disinterested or, worse, a “holier than thou” posture? I am passionate and I do have strong, hopefully well informed opinions on most topics. I suppose I’m less likely to share them in a setting where I think it is simply a waste of energy.

Please comment passionately and then passionately comment in response to the passionate comments.

Or stay silent. As a fellow perceived-as-a-fence-sitter, I won’t judge. Instead, perhaps you can display to others what it looks like to allow your passion to drive changed behavior, rather than drive lips.

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