Tag Archives: silence

Monday Morning Moment – the Not So Subtle Punishment of Silence

Photo Credit: Socrates, Status Mind

The silent treatment. Seems so juvenile, in a way, and yet it is used as a punishment in relationships, both personal and professional. We may be the ones doing it without even thinking that’s what it is. Here we go.

In the earliest years of our marriage, Dave and I would sometimes have a fight about something. At times, the conflict didn’t end well for me, anyway. Then, without really a goal to be vindictive or mean, I would just have nothing to say to him…for as many as three days. Oh, we would cover the normal conversation of life – schedules, kids, etc., but from my side, all matters of the heart were wrapped in silence. Punishing him with that silence. I don’t think he always noticed, but inside my own heart and head, it was brutal.

Fortunately for us both, I grew out of that. Now after a disagreement, it may take me a few minutes to shake off my frustration…but not days. Silent treatment in our marriage is over.

In a recent blog by Jan Riley (a dear friend of mine), she talked about the use of silence to “break a person down”. She writes below:

In his book Ostracism: The Power of Silence, psychologist Kipling Williams writes: “William James [father of American psychology] suggested that to be ‘cut dead’ and to go ‘unnoticed’ by others would be worse than the ‘most fiendish punishment.’ The silent treatment may well be the most frequently used method of cutting people dead.”

In his piece Ostracism, Dr. Williams introduced the topic with a further quote by Dr. James: “If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.( James 1890/1950, pp. 293–94)

Ostracism – Kipling D. Williams – pdf

Psychologist Karen Young talks about silent treatment as

Photo Credit: Jaeda DeWalt

Silence is a very disorienting experience because you usually can’t discern what it means.  It can put you off balance.

Anyone who has ever experienced ostracism knows what it feels like and how debilitating it can be, even for a mature thinker.

Silent treatment can be intentional and manipulative, however it can also become a habit of “communication” – neglectful communication. Excluding someone from a conversation (at work or other association), not making eye contact, not speaking in casual encounters, not answering emails/texts, leaving a group member off a group email, not acknowledging someone’s input…and so it goes.

[Of course, all the above can happen innocently for the overloaded person, without intention. The dilemma is when we, over time, just let it keep happening because we can’t figure out how to fix it..or just aren’t inclined…to fix it.]

The curious thing about silent treatment, if you confront the person you sense is doing it, that person can always deny it…whereupon you feel like you’ve read the situation wrongly, you overreacted, etc. It is like a double punch.

So what does one do in regards to silent treatment? What are the counter-measures? I would love for you to share yours in the Comments because I am still sorting out what can affect change.

In a personal relationship, in a non-conflictive moment, you may talk together about what silence conveys. It may be that neither of you have an understanding of what’s going on with the other…because of the silence. Face-to-face communication most always helps with understanding each other better.

In a work situation, or other organizational affiliation that demands working together, systems can be put in place that facilitates engagement… team meetings, weekly email updates, some sort of regular internal communication process. Like with bullying prevention, a core value that speaks to the essential of regular, empowering communication can have impact.

A work or family culture that just accepts silence as a way of coping with stress or frustration can affect everyone in that culture. Identify the issues and do what you can to move them toward health.

One-on-one, there still may be little we can do to counter or improve a situation with such a someone – one who has made silence a pattern to control their encounters with others. We can definitely mark the experience, and check the pain. Then if there seems no way to improve the relationship, the best thing we can do is put our own boundaries around the experience…but not necessarily the person.

Photo Credit: Pikord, Michael Davis Lowery

[The above graphic was a chuckle, not a true work-around.]

We don’t want to respond to passive-aggressive behavior with the same sort of behavior. We may, however, have to acknowledge that for some people, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that could even have become unconscious.

When our daughter was 3 years old, she went through a season of not speaking to people. She would bury her face in my leg, or just turn her face/body away from the person. Then I tried to “excuse” her behavior with “she’s become shy lately.” The same friend above, Jan, who was also a parenting mentor for me, said outright: “That’s not being shy; that’s being rude.” Some of you may be put off by that, but I appreciated her being straight with me. From that day on, this mama worked with that 3-year-old on what ignoring and not speaking communicated and on how to be courteous and respectful. Now the lovely woman she has become is working on the same lessons with her little one.

Whatever your take is on this, hopefully you won’t default to perpetrating the silent treatment as your own pattern of controlling situations. Don’t do it yourself. Don’t be that person.

It helps me to realize that friends, family, and coworkers who use silent treatment didn’t get there overnight. There could have been an event, an altercation, a painful experience of their own that set them up for emotionally withdrawing and using silence as coping or as punishment. For some, like in our early years of marriage, silent treatment may be very situational. For others, it is borne out of habit – a habit of feeling no compulsion toward connecting with people they don’t value or whom they feel don’t value them. It is what it is.

In this day of social media and over-sharing, to put yourself out there and then be met with silence is a strange and sometimes painful experience. Fortunately, even that does not define us. Right? Right.

The Surprising Truth About the Silent Treatment – Karen Young

When We Use Silence As Punishment

The Silent Treatment: a Deadly Killer of Friendships – Noelle Rhodes

What We Owe Beheaded Children – I Have No Words – But Lend My Voice in Support of These – Praying

Blog - WHat We Owe to Beheaded Children

[Used with Permission by Author Lori Stanley Roeleveld]

What unspeakable horror of which we must now speak.

So many headlines have bombarded my vision, my senses, my soul through my fifty plus years but this one, this one grabs my heart and tears it open like a gorilla at a bag of chips.

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is reportedly slaughtering Christians and doing it with the intent to horrify others into converting to Islam before they find their own necks touched by a callous blade. They film their barbaric acts, televised terrorism, which includes ravaging women and beheading children.

I won’t go on. But it begs the question – what do we owe beheaded children, crucified men, and tortured women?

We can’t unknow what is being reported. We can’t jump in planes and gather the children, their parents, their broken bodies in our arms. We also cannot allow the darkness to cripple us with fear, sadness, or hatred. These are the weapons of darkness, not light, and if we yield to them, we kneel before the same idol as the terrorists. So, what do we owe those who fall?

First, we owe them to bear witness to the crimes against them. As horrible as it is to know that children are being beheaded, we dishonor them by hiding our faces in the sand. This is part of the pain of the end times, bearing witness to the horror. Still, the suffering of hearing these unpleasant truths pales in comparison to the suffering of those who must live it but this is our pain, the pain of being witnesses who refuse to turn away.

If we turn away and refuse to know, we aid the enemy in their efforts, we tell the victims they die alone, unnoticed, we say to the world we are cowed by evil. Only by the strength available in Christ can our eyes remain open but open they shall remain. We won’t blindfold ourselves.

Second, we owe them to live lives worthy of Jesus Christ. Every five-year-old who falls by the sword should be a reminder to us that God has shown us grace simply by choosing the land in which we were born. That might have been our child. It might have been us. It should magnify our gratitude. It should galvanize our desire to live life to the fullest. In the name of these babies slaughtered, we can refuse to take our own lives in Christ for granted. We can live out the freedom granted us by the eternal lives blazing within us like a thousand suns. We owe these ones who have been robbed of life to not waste a moment of ours.

Third, we can refuse to pick up the weapons of darkness – fear, hatred, bloodshed, rage, and violence – but instead, wield the weapons at our disposal in Jesus Christ. We will learn to battle on our knees, moving the forces of heaven with our prayers. We will force back the darkness by aiming our light in its direction. We will refuse to remain ignorant, blind, and silent. We will not stand idly by but neither will we engage them on the field of their choosing. We will force them to fight where they are destined to lose – in the realm of the kingdom of God. Do you know prayer warriors? Apprentice with them. Ask them to teach you to battle in prayer. Build up your endurance for the long siege to come.

Fourth and finally, we can prepare for the time to come. Those who have fallen in the name of Jesus will wake to see His face. If they could speak to us from beyond, they would say “Be ready. Strengthen your hearts, your minds, your souls in Christ Jesus for the day they paint the mark on your door, for the day they aim the sword at your throat, for the day they come to slay your children.”

Know the One in whose name you pray and for whose name they were cut down. For even as the soil of Iraq and Syria absorbs their shed blood, their spirits are entering the kingdom of Christ where pain and suffering are no more. Those who struck them down have no hope unless they repent and call on the name of Christ to be saved. Those who struck them down are already dead, but we are alive forever. Know God’s word. Rid your life of sin and fear. Listen to God and move forward in faith when He speaks.

I know that some of you, loved ones, are more sensitive and tenderhearted than others. I know this is hard. It’s painful to bear witness and awful to hear of these atrocities. Jesus Christ will make us strong. He will make us able to bear up – those who face the sword and those left to wrestle with the knowledge of their violent deaths. He is with us all.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ESV)

What do we owe beheaded children? We owe them to live for the One in whose name they died.

This is a time to share our courage and strength. How else can we battle for those who have fallen? What scripture passages shall we pray? What news outlets are most reliable? Let’s share what we know here in the comments so we can act when we can, pray with wisdom, and support those who still live in the path of the blade.

We need to encourage one another, loved ones. Are you in for company along the narrow road? Click on the bar above that says “I’m in” and learn how to be a part of our little band of followers or Click Here to subscribe or contact me. Mercy and grace, Lori

**People are messaging me about sharing this post – yes, everyone has my permission to share this post, copy it and post it, send it through email, use the buttons at the bottom of the post to share through social media, etc. I’m sure you’ll all credit it back to this site but what is most important is spreading the message contained in the words. My prayer is that God uses them for His glory and for the building up of His church. Lori