Silence can be utilised as a defence, a weapon, a plea for mercy, a statement of ignominy, a cry of ignorance, a shout of defiance, a political comment, an expression of contempt, and much more besides.
We've all seen the soccer match where the classic professional dive is a rendition of perfection, the umpire succumbs to the clever ploy, awards the penalty, and the response from the brilliant actor is 'silence' – often with that telling awry smile. Silence can earn the victory, indeed silence can be golden.
Many a business man has employed the 'Silence' when being chased for debts owed and sends a text message without a message, a ploy to give the impression the call receiver is on their agenda, but not quite yet. Silence provides breathing space or worse, account avoidance.
Every "husband" from Royalty to the Corporate Baron, to the High Achiever, to the common man has received, at some time, 'the silent treatment' from his spouse. This 'silence' is louder and more communicative than a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
Silence is utilised politically. In the DVD series shown on television 'The Tudors' the fourth young queen of Henry VIII, Catherine, is charged with Treason (along with adultery). She darts past her captors, then chased into the King's court where she pleads to explain to the King. He looks at her, and in silence turns and walks away. Silence spoke volumes.
The court system itself honours silence and it's well known that for the defendant, it is often better to stay silent and well away from the witness box, as wherever he or she might say, can so easily be misconstrued by a clever-by-half barrister. The motto is, let them prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netamyahu and his claim that 'the world has been silent' on the aggression of the Palestinians. He has accused other countries of "deafening silence" in response to recent vows by the head of Hamas to fight on until the Jewish state is destroyed. He accused the international community of double standards, condemning settlements that have not yet been built in the West Bank while standing quiet during a historic visit to the Gaza Strip by the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal.
There is political silence and different types of political silence. Prime Ministers. Ministers, Leaders of Oppositions and the like, deploy the silence response.
The value of silent responses
Any such political silence represents a situation where making any response would be ill-advised, at other times it is a case that saying nothing limits the damage, and in other situations, there would be a sentiment of contempt associated with saying anything at all. Political 'silence' can be tricky.
Then there is British Royal silence where nothing is ever said as that is the status-quo which houses centuries of elegance and demeanour, indeed above the fray. Saying anything would not be 'cricket'.
There is sometimes a fear associated with silence. When wrong doing is suggested or witnessed, there is often great fear associated with either being silent or speaking forth and how to engage in such a dangerous pursuit. Silence is sometimes a bed fellow one would rather offer to one's worst enemy such is its implications.
What therefore, do we make of Jesus' silence. In Matthew we get two different silences, one before the High Priest and before the Governor. Read any number of Bible commentaries and you'll see an array of suggestions as to why Jesus stayed silent.
We get a glimpse of the art of silence in Jesus. Before the Jewish High Priest it is as if the response to Job is being played out again, "Where were you when the foundations of the earth were laid?" And before the Governor the clue is in verses 13 and 14 of Chapter 27 where there was an extraordinary number of accusations made against Jesus, yet his silence gave the Governor cause to ponder and marvel over and against the uproar.
The "art of silence" can indeed sometimes, be more powerful than either the pen or the sword. Knowing then, when to speak and to remain silent, was the greatest of all weapons of Henry VIII's fifth wife Katherine, referred to by the King, as Kate.
As illustrated in the television series 'The Tudors', it was this perceptive and intelligent knowledge when to speak and when to remain silent, that ensured Henry's successor, his 9 year old son, Edward, would have as his royal guardians, the Protestant Reformers.
Never under estimate 'silence'.