There is a certain part of me that fears awkward silence. When you get to that moment in a conversation when you can’t think of anything else to say and it’s obvious that the person you’re talking with isn’t coming up with anything either, a little bit of hysteria sets in. In the midst of awkward silence, time seems to slow down when all you want is for it to speed up, you think desperately of something to say that will be better for the conversation than grunts and nods but you’re drawing a blank, and you get this sinking feeling that the dialogue you are having is going down in flames and the chances of survival are miniscule.
Perhaps you can relate… and if you can’t, consider yourself blessed. If the above description sounds even a little bit like something you’ve experienced, then there’s more for you to be concerned with than you think. Here are two reasons why I believe this: 1) In the context of the local church, the fear of awkward silence can often keep us from having spiritually-beneficial conversations with certain church members and visitors, many of whom are in serious need of such conversations. Essentially, this fear can keep us from obeying the “one-another” commandments of Scripture, especially the ones that we feel are most conducive to awkward silence (i.e. rebuke, exhortation, giving counsel, correction). 2) The fear of awkward silence can also keep us from getting to the meat of a conversation – that part of the conversation where things get a little more personal and the opportunities for biblical encouragement and counsel increase. When awkward silence hits, too often we duck and run with a line that sounds something like, “Well, gotta go find the wife… have a good one”. Persevering through silence and allowing a conversation to mature can be what God uses to change a person’s perspective for the rest of the day… or week… or more.
Much of the time, our fear of awkward silence comes from an ungodly desire to be seen by people in a certain way. We have a certain persona we want to keep up and, to one degree or another, we want to impress others with what we say. In the case of awkward silence, we have nothing left to say and that doesn’t bode well for the person we want people to think we are. How can we move past this fear and take advantage of our conversations for the glory of God? Come back tomorrow when we will look at how the gospel of Jesus Christ directly applies to this problem.