The Gold that is Humble Silence

To be honest, I’m not quite a supporter of the dominant – or, at least, very noticeable – vocal attitude that a significant amount of my schoolmates makes our university (in)famous for. My dad tells me that the exploited poor are more easily convinced by that sort of people, though, people who would stand up and shout out with spines straightened and chests puffed out as they say “There is a problem, and you need to stop causing it!” to people who are clearly doing something wrong or “You know you have been hurt and stolen from, so fight back and take back what is rightfully yours!” to people who are clearly being wronged. My late paternal grandpa was that sort of vocal person too, and he once dreamed of getting into the university I’m studying in now, but he never did, though he did maintain that gruff and tough attitude of his. Still, with the help of his dear wife and their hard work which included overseas work in the US, he managed to raise his nine kids well enough to get them graduated from college and striking out well on their own, with almost all of them married and with their own kids, and some of them even living out in the US and in Canada.

Despite all that, I’m not really a fan of that brand of vocal attitude he held on to, even if I do believe that the late 60s to the mid-80s was one of the worst, if not the worst, points of Philippine history.

It’s not that I don’t like following the style of held on to by people like those classmates of mine or my paternal grandpa simply because I just took the gossip about that activist stereotype surrounding my university at face value, though. Deep down, I felt like more of a wreck whenever I tried to be as hard as those people, even though I knew that there was something wrong and someone needed to take responsibility for it.

For example, back when that grandpa of mine was alive, my elementary schooler self told him during a visit that I had issues with bullies at school. In hindsight, I think he understood that I had issues with bullying, but when it came to his advice regarding how to deal with them…well, I cried, Mom had to take me back to the car, and I remember she and Dad telling me some time later that Grandpa was somewhat under the influence at that time.

But what advice did my grandpa give back then?

Well, I don’t remember his exact words, but they were along the lines of “Go fight back and beat them up!” and he delivered them with his rough and hoarse voice, colored with a tone that has also painted my memories of having to listen to my schoolmates and my professors doing name-calling and satirical shots against understandably problematic people who should be doing their jobs right.

Yeah, I guess that’s why I struggle with class discussions. That’s why, instead of posting a rant willy-nilly on the Net or shouting out during class, I would rant about my dismay to my parents and to other people whom I trust very much after classes and in private. I’d send them walls of text, or I’d be spitting with tones just like those schoolmates’, something I also found hard to do because I would feel like I would be a hypocrite whenever I tried to go deeper with thinking about how violent I would be if I did that. But still, I learned that it had to go out, and that there are people who would be patient and forgiving enough to help me get it out better. Better that way than to have my mouth be trigger-happy in more public spaces, after all.

Still, it’s a problem, and I struggle with it, especially since the temptation to be a sarcastic nut is something I now consider more dangerous than I think. I’ve been realizing that it would be doing a certain thing that I and those schoolmates of mine detest so much: dehumanizing other people. In other words: looking at others as if they had no faces of their own, calling others hopeless cases that should rot and die in prison, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Talk about hypocritical, no?

Though even with my awareness of all that, I feel as if I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place when I have to listen to such prideful offenders and keep quiet in humility. The struggle now reminds me of a certain aunt’s reminders of how the sin called pride is tied to our baseness, and, of course, it isn’t easy to deal with.

And now, I think I’m understanding my struggle there even better.

You see, in a prayer community gathering I recently attended, a guest speaker told us the story of Fr. Steven Scheier, who would have been dead and in Hell if Mama Mary didn’t intercede for him. It was a story the guest speaker presented as a part of an advocating presentation of the Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and although I honestly have doubts about going for those Devotions right now, something about Fr. Steven’s story struck me.

To be more specific, I think I felt particularly struck when it came to the part where Fr. Steven talked about the excuses he once considered delivering but could never deliver in the face of Jesus the Judge. That, and perhaps the fact that he faced Judgment with a capital ‘J,’ almost ended up in Hell, and miraculously lived to tell the tale was something striking in itself. I was quiet on my seat in the prayer community meeting venue, but my eyes felt kinda watery back then, and I felt like a lot of glass barriers were shattered by a spear that was thrust into my heart multiple times as well.

But the one thing that came out of it, one thing I want to share in more detail with you today, is a set of memories of my younger years.

Those memories, well…they were my memories of my crybaby self…memories of me crying loud and hard that you were likely to want me kicked out both figuratively and literally.

I guess we can say that an ordinary day for me back during those years, especially my elementary years, included an offended me crying very hard. I was easy pickings back then, you know? I didn’t like violently reacting, but I didn’t like ignoring the bullies and letting them run over me with their jeers about me being a weird fat boy, about me being a teacher’s pet who tried to force his classmates into speaking English more, and, inevitably, about me being a noisy crybaby. And even though I improved as I grew up, I had to face the struggle with pride I’m still facing, pride that had me thinking as if I’m a scapegoat as I held grudges and self-hatred in my heart for having to witness other people nearby being improper – especially when it involved them targeting my friends – and being unable to do anything right in the face of those things. A bunch of times, I lashed out, resulting in meetings with school authorities, and in hindsight, I was the one who gave the them the biggest part of those troubles, because they had to spend so much time staying with me and trying to convince me to calm down and think straighter, while the kids I was angry at went on with school activities more easily…and they also got more ammunition to shoot at me and my friends for the next bullying session…all because I acted more immature than the bullies.

Perhaps silence is more golden than I thought. Well, to be more specific, humble silence is golden, now that I think about it some more. Being silent because I don’t want to admit that there’s a problem and that I’m always right is a bad thing, and I think that sort of silence was something I indulged in a lot during my younger years, years in which I thought being an edgy and anti-social smartass was the pinnacle of coolness, a foolish belief which was further strengthened by certain anime and video game characters I easily fell for back then.

But being silent in humility…humble silence…I think I know what is now. Humble silence is keeping silent while more militant classmates and professors spit their insults out, not because critically thinking about the issues they discuss is a bad thing, but because it would be a bad idea to join in if all that can be gathered and given out in response during the moment are only barbs that are just as bad or even worse than the barbs that have been spat out already. Humble silence is still doing still worthwhile homework after classes and going back to still worthwhile classes when the time is supposed to be for such, all while being polite and even forgiving despite being in opposition to the displeasing delivery styles of those prideful yet potential-filled classmates and professors. Humble silence is also reporting a clearly directly attacking bully to the proper authorities and with proper processing but without gloating about it to the reported bully afterwards!

And hey, humble silence can even be crying quietly and privately over things that the tear glands can’t handle, all while still going on with life and trying to keep up with God’s assigned schedule for me instead of trying to nose around and hijacking others’ lives like I’m worthy enough to be the driver for them.

I still don’t think that I’d be able to get along with the barbed vocal attitude of a bunch of my schoolmates, but I think I can endure it better now.

Still, God Almighty help us all.

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