Express Yourself

The Case for Maybe Shutting Up Once in a While

There’s something to be said about saying nothing

Photo: CSA Images/Getty Images

As I recently looked back at all I’d endured in 2020 — and in the years before it — I was proud to exclaim that not only had I survived, I was thriving! Because of a series of tough decisions that had to be made as my family and I prepared for at least two years of a raging pandemic, racial and political turmoil, and economic instability, we ended the year on an upswing. To boot, because of our planning and several huge personal shifts — including a cross-country move — many new and promising personal and professional opportunities had arisen in recent months.

I am a strong believer in the shifting of energies, that when we make even one tiny step forward, the universe responds in kind and takes 10 steps forward in our favor. I believe in focusing on solutions and not problems, pivoting in a crisis, making potentially painful sacrifices now as a means to a more joyful future, and staying forward-focused versus looking back at a past that cannot be altered. These beliefs helped me maneuver through what started as a year fraught with personal and professional losses, even before the pandemic hit.

Now, at the beginning of a new year, I’m in an upbeat frame of mind, hopeful for what’s to come — even as the country continues the painful but necessary process of cycling through some of its most pressing challenges, as it always has. As I microdose the rapidly evolving daily news cycle, I don’t know what any of it means for the future. All I know for sure is that nothing lasts forever. Soon after something terrible happens, something wonderful takes its place.

Did I mention how optimistic I am right now?

However, my annoying faith and confidence in the future aren’t rubbing off on everyone around me, and I completely understand why. We won’t all be on the same page at the same time, especially not while the world is on fire. So I’ve found myself alone in my cheer, and this has prompted me to keep my optimism to myself from now on. That’s not to say I feel as if I can’t talk about my joy, good fortune, and hopeful plans for the future, but I don’t want to anymore.

More often than not, when I phone a family member or friend in an attempt to spread a little cheer and discuss all the amazing opportunities that could be just around the corner for us, I am met with deep sighs and an accounting of how terrible everything is, and has been, for the past 10 months. The next thing I know, I’ve blown my natural high and am instead in a counseling session, trying to help the recipient of my phone call find the silver linings and pivot points in their personal and professional lives. By the end of each conversation, I’m spent, wishing I would’ve kept my good news and forward-focused perspective to myself.

I believe in the manifestation of circumstances and the detriment of wasting my positive energy and hopeful trajectory on people who have neither right now. We all grow and change at different speeds, at different times, and in different directions, and most of us will find ourselves traveling alone on our personal journeys.

For me, this is such a time.

There is something to be said about the peace that comes when we practice silence, when we keep even our most joyous hopes and achievements to ourselves, coveting and protecting them from those who can only commiserate rather than congratulate. There is something to be said for creating and enjoying the emotional and energetic safety of a self-care bubble in which one is surrounded only by what and who brings them joy with their equally high vibrations. And there is something to be said for knowing when it’s time to go within, plan your work, work your plan, and discuss none of it with anyone.

The fish dies by its mouth is an adage that warns of saying too much lest we give away pieces of ourselves, information others shouldn’t or don’t need to know. It comes to mind as I step into not just a new year but a new direction, energy, and version of myself. With my decision to withdraw from sharing my faith and high hopes at a time when, understandably, not everyone can appreciate or reciprocate them, the words of my 90-year-old grandmother come to mind. A private person who hates small talk and nosy neighbors, when asked, “How’s everything?” she often replies, “Thank God for however it is.” Moving forward, I’ll take my queues from her and others who have found value in silence.

Sam Rayburn, the forty-third Speaker of the House of Representatives, once said, “No one has a finer command of the language than the person who keeps his mouth shut.”

Writer, poet, and visual artist Khalil Gibran wrote in 1923’s The Prophet, “You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts. And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart, you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime. And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.”

Lastly, and more plainly, actor Will Rogers once offered this bit of advice: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

Silence is one of the most reverent of practices. When it serves us, it strengthens our resolve. It forces us to focus on our interpersonal and primordial needs, thoughts, and desires. In our silence, we find the strength to support and clap for ourselves and do without the accolades or opinions of others. In our silence, our energies are harnessed instead of wasted in bottomless barrels filled with fish that died by their mouths. And as it is with all kinds of energy, our high vibrational frequencies are multiplied when harnessed.

Moving forward, I hope that keeping my plans and fruitions to myself will only strengthen my manifestation and bring me closer to my goals. Some of the people I know will eventually join me for this part of my journey, while others won’t have the fortitude or good fortune to make the trip.

This is life. Thank God for however it is.

3x New York Times bestselling author, copywriter, and columnist.

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