I love words. I love that print on a page can move a nation to war, an enemy to friendship, a friendship to romance. I love how words are full of potential to be unleashed when put into just the right order.
What I love most is that they create silences. They say all there is to say so we are left in awe of what cannot be said. They leave volumes between the lines to keep us wondering.
They can pack a punch.
When they are absent, they say so much more. Have you ever listened to silences speak? They express every emotion more articulately than words -- anger, burning embarrassment, peace, happiness, awkwardness, content. So many relationships, decisions and conclusions are persuaded by silence.
The most powerful of silences is when someone else is talking and you are letting them talk. Listening. Sometimes people just need to talk; but we talk because we need to be listened to. We need someone to create a silence for us.
I'm the MVB -- Most Vocal Bergmann -- in my circle of acquaintance. But people have always, time to time, treated me as a listener. I have given up pretending to care and found it easier to just care. Most people don't care.
Most people, when they say, "How are you?", don't really care that you're in need of a hug, a few words of encouragement...or maybe just a moment of listening, of creating silence. "How are you?" is the most meaningless phrase in the English language -- that and "I love you."
"I'm good" is the second.
I've found that when I am least in need of comfort, people are most concerned. They ask if I'm okay or say they're praying for me or ask me how my week went on those particular days when I'm on top of the world or at least just enjoying the climb. It's when I most need someone to ask "How are you?" that nobody asks.
But some people really do care. They ask "How are you?" with a quiet sincerity and love that shocks me so much that I stammer, "Great!" -- because whatever happened during my week, it doesn't matter now. Somebody cares. What they didn't say -- "I love you and want to help you" is the most powerful silence.
Silence is powerful. I don't remember words so much as ideas, feelings, touch, expressions. I remember standing by myself, lost in a crowd, lost in thought, when someone I admired touched me on the shoulder and gave me a big smile while walking past. I remember coming to Wisconsin and finding out that the Christian community here were extremely liberal with hugs, especially on the day we met. I remember standing close to one of my best friends, arms around our shoulders, together against the world.
And people respond so much to smiles. A hug pens a letter of encouragement far more eloquently than a pen. A simple "Tell me what's on your mind" creates a silence on their part that solves more problems than a lecture ever could. Five minutes tangled up among one's sisters builds a more lasting love than the grandest speech of affection.
Indeed, I think the hardest and most effective way to communicate is not through words. It's through silence.