When Silence Speaks Volumes

loudIt’s no secret that UBFriends has become a gathering place for some who have strongly negative opinions and experiences of the UBF organization. It is a very rare and precious thing for persons and parties with strongly felt opposing positions to come together and communicate in a respectful and loving way. We (the administrators of this website) believe that God has called us to this unusual, awkward and sometimes-painful ministry of dialogue across the divide.

At times, this website has been criticized for being one-sided, unbalanced, unhelpful, overly critical, and so on. Some of that criticism is deserved. Yet from my perspective, it seems rather disingenuous for people stand at a distance, to listen to a conversation going on, to claim that the conversation is unhealthy because alternative points of view are not being represented, but then to do absolutely nothing to join in the conversation.

I understand that there are good reasons why some people feel uncomfortable discussing controversial issues on a public website. In all honesty, I believe that it would be better if these conversations that are now happening on UBFriends were taking place in another forum. But until that venue exists, I don’t see any viable alternative for those who feel that their voices haven’t been heard, except to continue to speak out with the hope and prayer that someone, somewhere will hear them and respond.

Over the weekend, I ran across a thought-provoking article titled How to Make Enemies and Offend People. The author, a Christian writer named Bill Blankschaen, describes the powerful negative impact that silence can have on interpersonal relationships. When a person should say something but doesn’t, the silence can speak volumes. Blankschaen writes:

Sometimes, we choose to be quiet when we should be talking. We choose silence and think that we’re not saying anything. Not true.

He goes on to describe the damage that silence can wreak. He makes three compelling points.

1. When we choose to be silent and not respond to someone, it can be very offensive when they find out later what we really think of them through back-channel communication.

2. When we choose to be silent and not respond to someone, they are likely to interpret our silence as meaning that we just don’t care.

3. Some people will be offended by what they thought you meant when you didn’t say anything to them.

This article is a followup to an earlier piece titled Silence Speaks: What You Say When You Say Nothing At All.

So if you read material on this website and become upset by it, and your response is to say and do nothing, please consider all the possible messages that you are sending. Your silence is speaking volumes.

And if you feel that your silence is being misinterpreted, please ask yourself: Whose fault is that?


  1. Exactly.

    Here are my thoughts on my own silence, as a former UBF director. For many years I was silent in regard to the reform discussions. Here are my reasons:

    1. Vanity. I was afraid to look in the mirror and see my true self. So I made a painting (caricature) of myself and looked at that instead. This reason has little to do with UBF. Did I know the gospel? Yes. Was I quenching and hindering the sanctification work of my God? Yes. To engage in the reform talks that came up year after year would have required me to look into a mirror and see my scary self, and I was scared to do it.

    2. Pride. I was proud. Even as a quiet man, I longed to be part of something famous. I loved to be told how good I was! I didn’t want to hear even a hint of negativity about myself or my church. I imagined myself as a silent, holy warrior, battling evil forces and dissenting voices only with prayer. This is how UBF trained me to be, and my pride soaked it up like a sponge. And when I decided to break the silence in 2003, I charged onto the internet like a valiant soldier defending UBF absolutely, even working with senior leaders to take down any negative website about UBF and to make the wikipedia entry about UBF to have no negative comments.

    3. Ignorance. My understanding of all things Christian was shallow. I only had superficial knowledge of the gospel, repentance, mission, faith, love, hope, and joy. So I carried a heaping, stinking pile of guilt around all the time. Jesus set me free from the cage of my self but I never opened the unlocked door! For example, I ignored the facts about how a shepherd should act. Now I look into Scripture and face the facts about my scary self. For example Ezekiel 34:1-10… verse 4 says “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” Christian ministry is primarily a reconciliation ministry both with God and with each other, and especially with the weak or injured or the lost. But I thought I should just be a shepherd who prayed and studied the bible and ignored my friends who disappeared from the ministry every couple years.

    • Mark Mederich

      i think your example is very helpful for all of us, since we all struggle with such things in ministry/life; some of us are able to delineate like you now, many are not

      some are UNWILLING to reveal weakness/depend on God, but your/our revelation in common humanity speaks for all (REPRESENTATIVE REVELATION)
      so people can either like that, speak up alternatively, or live in ‘quiet fantasy’ (proud silence) HALLELUJAH!

    • Mark Mederich

      in ministry/in life:
      quiet pride is not good, but proud ramblings are worse (silence is sign ramblings at bay, but repented?); only Holy Spirit can loose tongue & cleanse/humble the utterances (otherwise utter chaos:)

  2. Thanks, Joe. I think I have oft repeated the mantra of your post, which is that SILENCE IS A RESPONSE.

    What I personally find hypocritical is that though some may be silent regarding their objections, say to UBFriends, yet they are NOT AT ALL SILENT when they speak in their “inner circles.” I don’t know about what others think, but such behavior, I personally find quite duplicitous and objectionable.

    If their silence were TRULY SILENT, then no gossip and murmurings and disparaging comments through the grapevine would ever arise.

    • Ben, you make an oustanding point: Silence is a response. I would expand on that and say the mere fact of being silent does not automatically make a person wise.

      And when speaking up with healthy dialogue is the proper response, silence leads to a declining ministry where people abandon your vision.

    • Mark Mederich

      status usually leads to silent avoidance of issues/not wanting to deal with difficulties/hoping problems just go away/wishing noone questions (causing difficult response/effort)

    • Mark Mederich

      yes SELECTIVE SILENCE is a privilege claimed only by THE UNTOUCHABLES!

  3. Will 2014 be the year when the silent readers here finally speak up and join in conversation? Perhaps 2014 will be the year when the silent-dislike-like-button-clickers will begin to articulate their beliefs?

    If you speak up, it is guaranteed that someone won’t like what you believe and/or will disagree with you. But if you remain silent, it is guaranteed that your beliefs will go stagnant and unchallenged.