What Is The Difference Between Quiet And Silence?

Silence is not much like quiet. In a certain way, silence is the very opposite of quiet.

Explaining this distinction is often valuable to students when covering the ritual expectations and manners of the school or rules of classroom decorum. I would wager we have all said to students, “Please enter the classroom silently,” and found them later enter the classroom quietly whispering to one another. We have reminded the students again, “Please enter silently,” and they count us legalists desperate to distinguish between decibel levels.

However, quiet and silence have entirely different aims. We are quiet for the benefit of others, so as not to disturb them, but we are silent for the benefit of our souls. Silence is the undisturbing of the psyche. We are quiet because others are busy, but we are silent because we want to be about the business of thought. We ask our students to do this or that silently because they need to conduct their own souls with austere dignity. Being quiet shows a concern for community, while being silent is always an act of mysticism; the silent man is making room for God to work directly within the spirit, in much the same way pacifism is a sacrificial offer of weakness to God that He might have a place to make His strength perfect.

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