One of the aspects of spiritual leadership I struggle with the most is the power of silence in leadership.
A Vocation of Words
In many ways, spiritual leadership is a vocation of words. I spend hours each week studying the Word and then crafting words into sermons that I speak out each week. I pore over song lyrics, choosing the songs to sing in worship that I believe will be most helpful to my congregation in helping them to connect to the theme I have chosen. I speak to people on a regular basis. Often, this will be about a particularly difficult pastoral issue – a diagnosis, a family problem, a financial difficulty, a crisis of faith – and as a spiritual leader, I feel the weight of trying to come up with the right words to say in each and every situation. I have business and administration calls to make. Sometimes, those administrative responsibilities are frustrating, and I have to work extra hard to ensure the right words are used in responding to those frustrations.
I make mistakes. Others make mistakes. When I am challenged about those mistakes, I am tempted to defend myself, to bring words of self-justification. I was busy. I was tired. You have no idea how many other things I was dealing with that day. I gave the responsibility to someone else and they made the mistake, not me.
Words, words, words.
The Power of Silence in Leadership
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’ (Psalm 46:10 NRSVA)
I am learning the power of silence in leadership. Silence allows me to let go of the need to control others with my words. Silence is a way to ensure that I am not adjusting my public image through self-justification. I can let go of such soul-destroying habits. Silence teaches me to let God deal with other people. I place my reputation in his hands instead. And suddenly my words, when I do speak, have more value.
As with most disciplines, there is little point in trying to practice silence in the moment. Silence must be practised away from other people, in solitude, for it to be effective when you are with them. Practising the spiritual discipline of silence in solitude brings us into an awareness that God is control of the universe, and I am not. It allows us to enter into our own interior life that is often so hidden from us, so that God can reveal new dimensions of life we haven’t seen before and we can deeper understand our life in God.
Words from the Soul
As spiritual leaders, our words have power. People often listen to us simply because we are leaders, because of the position we hold. Our words are much more powerful if they spring from our souls, and our souls cry out for silence. Our sermons will be more powerful if we spend as much time in silence before God’s Word as we do crafting what we will say. Our sung worship will be more powerful if we sit in silence and allow the words to seep into our souls. The words of comfort we say to people who are in difficult situations will be more powerful if we have first learned to sit in silence with them and get to know them in that silence – if we have simply been with them. When we are frustrated by administration, a period of silence before picking up the phone or banging out an email, may just give us the time we need to calm down and respond more effectively.
So leave behind your words and enter into silence. Discover the power of silence in leadership.
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Why not check out these posts from around the blog?
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