“The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for Scripture warns, In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning, and A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth.”
I am, by nature, an introvert – a person who depends on silence and solitude to reconnect with God and myself and gather the strength needed to interact with others. Normally, this ninth step on the ladder of humility would come easily for me. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The world is not kind to people like me. The world expects people to be outgoing, gregarious, and verbally stimulating. In order to survive in society, I had to curtail my natural instincts and cultivate my personable side. This transition was not easy, and while I am nowhere near what people would consider an extrovert, I have – over years of practice – become a talker (although admittedly awkward at times), and I have caught myself saying idiotic and stupid things on many occasions. Without thinking, I would simply say what came to my mind. Yes, I have a mental filter and stopped myself from saying things I knew would be hurtful or spiteful, and for that grace I am eternally grateful. However, I knew this practice of mindless chatter had to stop.
Today’s reading from the Rule calls me back to my roots, to the realization that there is nothing wrong with being a quiet and reflective man. Yes, relating with others is important, but more so is the way I relate to them, and spending time in my center will allow me the reflective strength I need to commune with others as God intended: reflectively, not reactively. I have to realize there is nothing wrong with thinking before speaking, and many times, speaking is not even the correct response! We introverts know there are many ways of being present to others and communing with them that does not require words: a smile, a simple look, a firm handshake or squeeze on the shoulder. These and other non-verbal actions, together with carefully chosen words, create fully human encounters that are physically and spiritually encouraging and constructive.