When There Are No Words

Some days, words fail.

This may sound strange coming from a writer. And if you’ve read my writing-about-writing blog before, you’ll know that I give great importance to the power of words.

But sometimes, our words seem too little, too trite, too hollow to do justice to what has just happened.

In moments of extreme joy.

In moments of wondrous awe.

In moments of utter sorrow.

Some of my most poignant memories are when I had no words to say at all. This used to frustrate me—I wanted to have the right words of comfort, of guidance, of congratulations. But now, I’ve learned that sometimes, the best thing to do is to be silent.



In music, my favorite moments are often right before a pregnant pause or right after the final chord. The silence is beautiful, partially because it is surrounded by and held in contrast to sound. The silence is part of the song.

I think that’s one reason behind the importance of those speechless moments. We cannot always remain silent, but there are times where words would detract from the message. And then. Then—the words that surround that moment are all the more worthwhile.

Take the soft-spoken student who only opens his mouth when there’s something no one else has thought to say.

Take the parent who says “I forgive you” after a hurtful separation.

Take the words we say after we’ve had the opportunity to be still. To listen. To say nothing at all.


Then, others will listen.