I just spent twenty minutes in the car with a sullen son on the way to school.
We didn’t speak a single word the whole ride there, until we said goodbye with a long hug.
I had no idea why he was mad–maybe something to do with his mom and shoes that were too warm. But I didn’t know.
I could have asked, but I didn’t. It wasn’t my business to pry. He’s entitled to his anger. And I’m not sure my words would have offered any solace.
There is an old understanding that silence is a respectful way to honor relationship. At times it’s just what is needed to strengthen familial bonds and maintain communal peace.
The paradox is that you are often more relational when you don’t seek to understand. Just take a look at how we treat Earth, and it becomes apparent that the integrity of our respect for life is eroded by our incessant need to know.
When we show respect, we’re making it our priority not to interfere or violate a relationship. In the Navajo justice and harmony ceremony, for example, elders describe a person who is behaving disrespectfully as ‘one who has no relations’.
Silence can be the proper way to show respect, even for a parent.