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Restraint

On Janus, there is no reason to speak. Tom can go for months and not hear his own voice. He knows some keepers who make a point of singing, just like turning over an engine to make sure it still works. But Tom finds freedom in the silence. He listens to the wind. He observes the tiny details of life on the island. – M.L. Stedman, ‘The Light Between Oceans.’


I know. I’m behind on blogging.

I could give a variety of  excuses:

1. Our winter homeschool activity schedule.  The girls love gymnastics, but it may have been the thing that tipped me from happy homeschooling mama to off-kilter, crazy lady. Considering the encouragement I receive from steady, faithful, fellow homeschooling mamas while we watch our children learn to tumble, though, I’ll be sad to see these ten weeks be over.

2. Elliana’s demand to start kindergarten early. Teaching two children is very, very different than teaching just one. Refer back to #1. Those mamas teach at least three, each. And they smile. Wow. Watching Elliana read, however, makes it all a little magical.

3. Living room renovations that take far longer than they should.  Who knew, for example, that my dining room table would take four coats of paint to get it right? Oh, that’s right. No one. Because the fourth coat was all my fault. Yes, in a stroke of genius, I accidentally let my wet paint brushes sit on the table top and seep extra satin finish into the smoky mountain gray. The plus side? The distressed effect I achieved was the one I wanted anyways.

4. The flu from… yes. Down under. And I’ll have you know, people who swear by the flu shot, I only get the flu on years when I get the flu shot. So… there.

5. NHL Gamecenter. Laugh away, mockers. I love my new toy.

6. A growing stack of books I just have to read. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s always a problem.

But the truth is, none of these are the real reason for my recent interweb silence.

The real reason is a growing understanding that the world doesn’t really need my opinions on everything.

I know. Shocking, right?

It’s not like people are sitting out there thinking, oh, if only I knew what Lana would do! I will live my life just like her!

Because, they’re really not.

And that’s a darn good thing.

This grace revolution is changing the way I see everything. I no longer feel the need to be right. All. The. Time.

Being right is exhausting.

Tenuous.

Obnoxious.

Not to mention ignorant.

Liberating myself from the need to be right is downright ethereal.

Instead of formulating counterattack arguments in my head for each moment another person is talking, I get to… wait for it… actually listen to what my friends are saying.

I know. This is just, so… brand new information.

Right?

Except it is. At least for those of you who, like me, suffer from the long-term compulsiveness to inform the world of your innermost thoughts. Transparency is good, we say. Get yourself out there, we urge. Don’t be a doormat! we cry. Stand up for yourself!

And while all of those things are true, the very, very old maxim is also true:

Everything in moderation.

We can stand up for ourselves to the point of becoming the one who needs to be stood up against. We can put ourselves out there to the point of persuading no one at all to consider what we have to say.

But in one well-timed moment of silence…

I’m realizing that my preoccupation with inflicting my thoughts on everyone really comes from insecurity in those thoughts. If I need to throw them at others, I’m likely still testing them out.

If I really know something to be true, I can keep quiet about it.

(Well. Not always. There were a few moments over the holidays that my restraint failed. Majorly. I assign that failure to the mind-blowing experience of reading Not For Sale and Seven. I can no longer keep my mouth shut about child slavery, women’s rights in third world countries, or the growing disparity between rich and poor.)

That’s not to say I’m right on all these issues. No. In fact, I’ve been very, very wrong about them for so, so long. My ignorance has unwittingly contributed to them, and I’m downright angry about it. So angry, in fact, that I forcefully inflict these infant thoughts of advocacy on anyone close enough to hear.

The thing is, people don’t need to be lectured. They don’t need to be told how to think.

People need to be heard.

How many discipline issues have been solved merely by hearing my child out? How many times have I calmed down solely by telling someone close to me how I feel?

How much more peaceful would our world be if we just let each other speak? How much more satisfying would our relationships be if we just heard the other first, even – or especially – if it seems so different from what we think?

If we could let a beat or two of silence pass instead of saving the world with our well-reasoned arguments…

We might start a real revolution.

So, friends, like the character quoted above, let us find freedom in the silence. Let us observe the tiny details that the noise of our words usually veils. Let us give real connection a try – apart from competition, debate, and speculation.

We might re-learn the ancient virtue of restraint.

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