Joan Chittister: ‘Noise Protects Us From Confronting Ourselves’


“There are two major obstacles to a development of a spirituality of peace. The fear of silence and solitude looms like cliffs in the human psyche. Noise protects us from confronting ourselves, but silence speaks the language of the heart. Silence and solitude are what really bring us into contact both with ourselves and with others. Deep down inside of us reside, in microcosm, all the human hopes and fears, the struggles to control them, the hope to set them free, the peace that comes when we have confronted both the best and the worst in ourselves and found them both acceptable.

Silence requires a respect for solitude, however, and solitude is even more frightening than quiet. One of life’s greatest lessons is that solitude and loneliness are not the same thing. Loneliness is that sign that something is lacking. The purpose of solitude, on the other hand, is to bring us home to the center of ourselves with such serenity that we could lose everything and, in the end, lose nothing of the fullness of life at all.

Silence does more than confront us with ourselves. Silence makes us wise. Face-to-face with ourselves we come very quickly, if we listen to the undercurrents that are in contention within us, to respect the struggles of others. Silence teaches us how much we have yet to learn. Or, as we get older, silence perhaps reminds us too that there are qualities that we may never with confidence attain and that will war in our souls till the day we die. Then face-to-face with our struggles and our inadequacies, there is no room in us for mean judgments and narrow evaluations of others. Suddenly, out of silence, comes the honesty that tempers arrogance and makes us kind.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

From For Everything a Season by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

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