December 27, 2010

December 25: The Power of Silence

Am I applying the Al-anon Slogan "Think" appropriately?

I am inspired to share by these words from today's CTC, "We learn to hold our tongues when tempted to interfere in something that is clearly none of our business. We learn the value of silence."

These words are particularly poignant in addressing the umbrage I felt when a fellow sojourner in Program advised that I make my phone number unlisted, in order to change my relationship with my dry-drunk mom.

There is a profound understanding in the Al-anon program that first took me by surprise when I heard it:   "What other people think of me is none of my business."  This is sometimes true when we receive unsolicited feedback from others who are in different places in their program than we are.

When I am quiet and stop  "shoulding on" myself, I am confident that I already have done enough,  over many years, with no change in my or my mom's behavior.  I've tried every possible strategy. It has taken me a long time to realize it cannot be my business to change the way my mother treats me.

It hurt that my program friend found me lacking.    From my point of view, I had demonstrated courage by not ignoring my mom's calls.   I'd come to a more complete understanding of my powerlessness and my mom's contempt. I'd listened carefully and quietly stepped away from belittling words, rather than reacting with an angry outburst of my own.  I did not escalate.  I even chose not to correct mom's current bad behavior.  I chose the power of HALT. 

Thankfully I have a pretty darned good fortress up already, and HP's carefully woven mail to protect me. I've come to see that I won't know how much I CAN change.... until I STOP fighting for change.  And stop caring what others think.   Let me stay with the sorrow and the honesty that,  "No one can hurt me when I decide to use the comforting cloak of silence my HP has prepared for me."

Let me continue to honestly assess the quality of my  restraint.... "Silence can be more cutting than cruel words when it is used to punish. Deliberately ignoring someone's attempts to communicate is no better than engaging in a battle of words. Rage that is expressed non-verbally through cold looks and slammed doors is still rage. When I seek to hurt someone else with silence of any other weapon at my disposal, I always hurt myself."

Considering those words.... I am confident that I am not seeking to hurt anyone with my silence.

Right now, this gift of silence is opening my ears and keeping my own sins to a minimum.   Without my retaliation or correction, my mom's words can not hurt me. One day, I suspect I'll be able to share such thoughts with her, and she will laugh in relief. For now, I have no plans for what I will say when I next answer her phone call.  I can tell my mom that her lack of belief in me is her choice.  I wish she could choose differently, but I am allowing her to forge her own relationship with a loving Higher Power as she sees fit.  Maybe in the future, I can let my mom know HOW (Honesty, Openness, Willingness) I am letting my (our?) Higher Power resolve our differences. 

Thank HP, I know that I don't have to be the one to hang up the phone. I can let my mother lose her battle by herself.  These days she says things that are frankly, rather stupid. For me to admit that they hurt, would not make a productive dialogue; it would set me back firmly in my old childhood ways.  For I am an adult, and only need to dwell in peace with that. 

"My aim is to heal myself and my relationships. "  For that, I need endurance and to make choices that support this goal.   I feel like I have covered some new ground in the past month.  May I trust my silence, when my tongue is gentled by a stillness of spirit, and when it is free of pride. 

"..If [my] silence has in it even a trace of anger, it loses all its power.. True quiet has the quality of serenity, acceptance, peace."  One Day at a Time in Al-anon


  1. I have used passive aggressive silence before. I wish that I could always practice restraint of tongue. Sometimes I simply state that something is unacceptable to me and then move on.

  2. I have never heard HOW before, I like that.

    I have trouble not being hurt by both words and by silence. I pray that I use them both wisely.

  3. Hey, I am so appreciative that you both stopped by. I am always glad when I get to understand when a concept works, for someone else. And when I find out that someone with more experience admits that they are struggling with something that I have been chastising myself about. Thanks Syd for reminding me that I can be quiet and restrained AND also say exactly that thing my problem person least wants to hear, "I find that unacceptable. Gotta go!"


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~