Monastic Mom

Communication - silence isn't always golden

Probably the biggest hurdle in family life is the acquiring the skill of clear, truthful communication.  For many people one of the hardest parts is not holding back communication because we fear hurting another.  Silence is NOT always golden.   As children we are taught to be careful what we say because we might hurt someone with our words....  "Don't tell Aunt Edna that her orange and purple polka dot sweater is ugly."   "Don't say to Uncle Moe that his present to you of a dictionary is boring."   These are good manners, but too many of us generalize this rule to never say anything that might hurt.  We become so fearful of hurting our friends and family members, that we lie and/or just avoid saying anything.

A number of years ago I was visiting friends for dinner.  Before dinner the husband ran to the store to pick something up.  While he was gone, the wife confided in me that she was totally unhappy in their marriage, but she didn't want to hurt him by telling him it was over for her.  After dinner, the husband gave me a ride home and confided to me on the way that he was totally unhappy in their marriage, but he didn't want to hurt her by telling her it was over for him.  I didn't want to step in the middle and inform either what they had both confided.  And so they lived on, both in misery, for another several years until one or the other got the courage to speak the truth.  This is a classic example of how we fear our words will hurt another but in the long run everyone suffers even more.

In my own life, my ex-husband finally admitted to me that the reason we never expanded the house was because he did not like my plans and did not want to hurt me by telling me so. The tensions of living in  inadequate housing in need of repairs added to the breakdown of the marriage.

On the flip side sometimes our lack of communication results from fears about ourselves getting hurt.  We may fear sharing our ideas, because we fear we will be rejected. Inside a family, that fear can only lead to alienation.  Being willing to share our thoughts and feelings with those we love can only strengthen a relationship.  Outside the family, it can be more difficult.  Personally,  I've developed a deep fear of rejection which keeps me silent perhaps sometimes when I shouldn't be. An aspect I need to work on in the silence of meditation.   Sometimes silence is golden... other times not. 

So how do we be truthful without hurting.

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