Silence is a weapon my mother used against me. Effectively. To a child growing up it meant disapproval, rejection, and isolation. It was a painful punishment. It was judgment. I was not worthy. Powerless to penetrate this barrier of emotion, I would run from it. Defeated by silence all that should have been love… left.
First, as a small child, I ran to the little Pentecostal church across the street from the house we lived in. When I saw the light shine through the storefront window, that’s where I would be from the age of five until the age of twelve. Each time the doors would open, there I would be, whether for service, business meetings, choir practice or whatever. The church was my haven.
After the age of twelve, her silence drove me to the streets where I learned the lessons that I should have been taught at home. Silence prevailed and rebellion set in. What could be said during my teenage years when everything I knew about life I learned on my own, from the streets through trial and error?
Entering college on my seventeenth birthday, alone, there were other lessons to be learned. From the girls in the dorm, by observation, I learned of boys and men, drugs and sex. They taught me how to dress and wear makeup. I learned how much I did not know and eventually I learned to loath myself, for I would never be as smart or pretty or wise as these perfect confident creatures that inhabited my college world.
I ran further from the silence after college. Settling 1500 miles away I foraged through life on my own, with no guidance and when my mistakes translated into motherhood, I made an attempt to reach out to break the silence. I needed help.
But years of silence makes communication difficult and uncomfortable, even when the want to is there. Could I trust the words given in a monotone, handed out one sentence or syllable at a time? Could I trust someone who could not or would not say my name? Could I trust someone when the current of disapproval, rejection and judgment ran just below the surface?
As my children got older I knew they would never be regulated to a life of silence. They would not have to be educated in the streets by others who had little concern for their welfare. They would learn from a mother who would communicate openly. They would learn life’s lessons from me. They would learn to trust the things that I said, because they would know the depth of my heart; through communication.
In my teaching, I taught my children that they were free to speak their mind. More importantly, I taught them that there was a way to say anything that needed to be said. I gave them the freedom to communicate effectively.
Now I am included in their lives although we live miles apart. They share their thoughts. I share mine. We are free to tease and laugh with each other because we have gained understanding of who we are and where we stand with each other. We can discuss any subject without fear of disapproval or rejection because we have learned to trust our acceptance of each other unconditionally. We don’t run away from the hard subjects. We speak our minds, when we are angry, frustrated, or elated. We speak with passion yet we remain confident that our secrets, our hearts are understood, not judged.
I have discovered that as they have grown wiser, and I have gotten older, I have the freedom to share even the silliest thought that comes to mind as I laugh at life. They let me. They accept me just as I am. I love them and I appreciate who they have come to be.
Just last week my daughter and I were conversing about death and dying. During the conversation, she said, “Mommy, should I die before you, you will not be surprised by anything anyone says about me. You know everything there is to know; the good, the bad, the ugly.”
I am grateful for the intimacy I share with my children. Is this not a blessing? To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are accepted in a circle of our love born out of communication. Isn’t there freedom in communication? Isn’t it a privileged to know someone so intimately and be known as intimately? Isn’t this what Christ desires from us? That He be known as intimately as He knows us.
The weapon of silence will not destroy our love. Not my family. Not now. Not ever. Not again.