The Fear of Silence

I listen to about 3-5 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey* every day. I listen to it while I make the bed, brush my teeth, and get dressed in the morning. I listen while I exercise, while I meal prep, while I fold laundry, while I wipe down the dining room table.

If I am not focusing on something that requires the majority of my brain power, it’s playing. Guaranteed. 

If it’s not AIO, it’s a podcast. Rarely, it’s music (forgive me musical friends, I am not one of you). Might even be just a mindless scroll through Instagram. But there’s always something. Noise. The only part of my day that there’s silence without my focusing is when I’m drifting off to sleep. Or morning worship. And more often than not…it’s kind of annoying. Painful even. I have to stop my hand from automatically reaching for noise.

I feel addicted to the noise sometimes. And then I get hit with words like these:

“Where does this strange urge come from to reach for NPR the moment we get in our cars? Or always have music on in the background? Or flip on the TV while we’re cooking dinner? Or listen to podcasts during our workouts?

As easy as it is to blame the devil, could it be that we’re using external noise to drown out internal noise?”**

My response to reading this was simply, “hahahahha…ah…yeah. Yes. I know I’m doing that.”

Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

The anxiety-induced what-if scenarios are exhausting. So is the constant self criticism. Oh and the self-doubt. And don’t get me started on the unrealistic productivity standards I daily self impose. What about worrying over my friends and family? Or just the constant fear that the husband is going to die tragically. That’s a regular intrusive super-not-happy-thanks thought. And also how am I going to speak in front of people next weekend? What should I cook when we invite those friends over? What did that new friend think of me? How are we going to balance our finances in the upcoming month? This, times infinity. 

Quickest fix? Press play. So I do. Constantly.

But that which is the quickest fix is certainly not the actual fix. Because when the episode ends or the WiFi is lost or I have to sit in silence…there’s no escape. All I’ve taught myself is to run away, but what if there’s no more running I can do? 

Silence can be terrifying. It’s an invitation of the mind to reflection, processing, thinking. And often times, all the feelings come with it. But distractions and noise don’t fix it—they only delay the inevitable, compounded with interest of passing time. 

So what to do instead?

Choose the silence. Choose to think. Choose to stop running, even for a few minutes. Face the fears, the thoughts, the worries. Two of the ways that help me the most are (a) praying through them out loud (to God as to a friend!) and (b) journalling as detailed as is my experience. Sometimes it results in realizing my feelings are different from reality and choosing to live in reality. Sometimes it results in choosing better habits for my health.

Sometimes it results in just relying on God for peace amidst a chaotic and unpredictable world. But always, always, always, always: it results in something far better and lasting than distracting myself from the problem. 

So am I going to keep listening to Adventures in Odyssey and podcasts and the occasional song? 100% yes. But I choose to do it when it’s for the enjoyment of those things instead of seeking them for a prolonged escape. 

When you’re reaching for something to fill the gap of noise, ask yourself why you’re doing so. Would it be better to pause in reflection instead?

Help us not be afraid of silence, Lord. Help us to meet You there instead. 

*If you’re not familiar with such radio program, my heart aches for your childhood. Simply, it’s a Christian kids program that has surprisingly deep lessons and is 20-30 minutes long per episode.

**The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Comer, p. 132. Highly, highly recommend this book.