In American culture, we often hear that speech is silver and silence golden. Silence can be a great gift we give to another when we truly listen, says a columnist in the Catholic Times. But it can become a torment to the listener, he reminds us, when a conversation turns into a monologue.
He tells us about a person who was always ready to enlighten those he was with by recounting whatever he had learned or experienced, often Xeroxing and passing out interesting articles and talking enthusiastically about a good movie he had seen or a good book he had read. At first, this information was welcomed, but soon, within a month for some, they would begin to avoid him. Others would stay with him longer before becoming frustrated by his non-stop speech and wanting no more to do with him. As painful as this was for him, he did not get the unspoken message; he would simply go on to find others who would listen to him.
The columnist, having heard about his behavior, met him for lunch with a friend, and soon learned that what had been said about the man was true. It was a simple lunch but he and his friend received a thorough education on the foods being eaten, their proper preparation and their origin. During the meal, he also heard about finances, politics, society, and culture. It was like listening to the news of the day being delivered by someone very knowledgeable and interesting.
After the meal, accepting his invitation to a tea room, they heard him give a detailed account of the history of the tea room. When he was interrupted briefly by some words of their own, he would soon return the talk to his own reflections and take over the conversation once again.
The columnist returned home having heard too much and having little empathy for the man. In all that was said, he was the main point of the talk. He had no idea of what those who were with him had in their hearts and didn't seem to care. Thinking of what others have in their hearts and encouraging them to share that is as important as what one has to say to others; it is the secret of growth in human relations, the columnist believes. This sympathy for the other's words and the sharing of what each one has to say is what makes for a lasting friendship, the columnist concludes.
In a stereotype of this kind, it is easy to see the waywardness of the man. One would think that as part of fraternal correction someone would have brought his disturbing behavior to his attention. If it is not a mental disorder, it seems something could have helped him. Fraternal correction, considered years ago a high form of charity, is nowadays not so readily accepted as a viable way of showing love for another. And yet, although silence is the better part of wisdom in many cases, silence can be a failure to love.