We leaders live in a world that bombards us with incessant visual stimuli and noise. And it’s easy to become addicted to such noise without even realizing it. Our so called time saving technology such as smart phones and high speed Internet access relentlessly remind us that we can get more done in less time so we have more time to get even more done. As a result we are addicted not only to noise, but to hurry. As John Ortberg writes, “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” Leaders desperately need what the ancients called silence and solitude to help us lead at our best. I suggest eight benefits of building this discipline into your life.
John Ortberg tells a delightful story in Leadership Journal that describes how a pastor or a leader’s life can sometimes get out of whack.
Some time ago, a newspaper in Tacoma, Wash., carried the story of Tattoo the basset hound. Tattoo didn’t intend to go for an evening run, but when his owner shut his leash in the car door and took off for a drive with Tattoo still outside the vehicle, he had no choice.
Motorcycle officer Terry Filbert noticed a passing vehicle with something dragging behind it, “the basset hound picking them up and putting them down as fast as he could.” He chased the car to a stop, and Tattoo was rescued, but not before the dog had reached a speed of 20-25 miles per hour, rolling over several times.
Leaders often live like Tattoo, our days marked by picking them up and putting them down as fast as we can.
Hurry and noise and incessant busyness are enemies of a healthy spiritual life. [Tweet “Hurry and noise and incessant busyness are enemies of a healthy spiritual life.”] I can attest to that. Yet, God does not want us to be controlled by nor conform to the noisy, hurried life that our culture and churches often push us toward. Some of the greatest spiritual leaders and influencers of the past said much about this practice.
Henri Nowen, who taught at Harvard, Yale and Notre Dame, and wrote 20 books, said, “Without (silence and solitude) it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.” He also wrote, “It is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn’t be better served by our silence than by our words.” (The Way of the Heart)
The late Dallas Willard wrote, “(This one) is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”
Blaise Pascal, the scientist and Christian thinker of the 1600s, wrote, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”
Austin Phelps, a pastor in the 1800s, noted, “It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.”
The Bible also speaks often on silence and solitude.
There is … a time to be silent. (Ecc 3.7)
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecc 5.2)
Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps 46.10)
Moses and Paul, some of the most recognized figures in history, were transformed in times of extended solitude.