Language is a process of conveying words constructed together into phrases and sentences with the intention of conveying meaning. Our minds hear the words and interpret them based on our intellectual understandings of the words.
Someone says, “I love you” or “I appreciate you” or “I acknowledge you” and we attach meaning to those words based on what we have experienced those words to mean.
Could it be though, that the true meaning in these phrases, or in most all the things we say, is not in the words themselves, but rather in the silence between the words?
If I say to you, “Can you pass me the Phillips-head screw driver,” there is a definable intellectual meaning in the request that is difficult to misinterpret. And yet I can convey the request with a wide range of feelings such as, anger and contempt, or appreciation and respect, or annoyance and frustration, or patience and joy.
If I say to you, “I love you,” this can be conveyed and understood in an infinite variety of ways—ways of which I can only convey through the silence, and interpreted by you only through the silence.
When I say to my Maria “I love you,” there is a depth of meaning to the words. If I say to you, my dear reader, “I love you,” I may or may not even know you, and yet there is a way in which these words can still have meaning.
Entire books have been written to convey the simplest of concepts, epic poems written to share a single feeling, entire life times devoted to conveying a particular emotion through art and music. Legal contracts use incredibly lengthy and arduous language to convey meaning without ambiguity, and yet they can always be argued over in a legal proceeding.
To move beyond misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and unnecessary emotional drama all we have to do is pause and feel the silence between the words. What are we conveying in the silence between our words? And what are we hearing in the silence between the words of those we are listening to.
When we speak to fast or too much, we miss the silence. When we think only of our response while another is speaking, we miss the silence. When we project meaning based purely on intellect, we miss the silence. When we allow the judgments we hold related to the words to determine meaning, we miss the silence. When we are wrapped up in our own emotions, we miss the silence and miss the true intended meaning.
This morning as I write these words I say to you, I love, appreciate, and acknowledge you, my reader. And I write these words with great silence. Can you feel it?