Why the silent treatment hurts.

There are times in life when we have to exercise self-control and bind our lips so as not to say something that we can’t take back. “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” (Proverbs 29:11) This type of silence is of good character.

Then there are some people that take silence to another level…. THE SILENT TREATMENT. When we are threatened in some way, we react with fight or flight. Silence may initially be a protective mechanism of flight. But the moment the threat is no longer present and the silence evolves into punishment of another, it becomes an active form of fight.

Silence pops up in many relationships in our lives; spouses, children, co-workers, friends, family, etc. Some people try to defend their silence by saying things like, “I’m not calling you names. I’m not raising my voice. I’m not hitting you. I’m not doing anything to you.” Let’s be clear…. The silent treatment is loud and it hurts or offends. The thing you can count on about the silent treatment is that it will never bring resolution or peace to a situation; it will only make a chasm wider or lengthen the duration of the pain.

In Matthew 22:36, when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus goes on to give a second commandment, “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In order to comply with these commandments, we must first understand what it means to love.

Love is many things. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” So we know that love is about action; actions of patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope and rejoicing.

Ignoring someone is the opposite of love. It screams loud and clear to the other person, “You are not worthy of my attention or my breath. I refuse to hear you when you speak. I do not even care about you enough to acknowledge your existence. I dislike you or disrespect you so much that I cannot even look at you.”

There are many reasons why we resort to silence in our relationships with others. Anyone who delivers
silence and anyone who receives silence knows that silence can be a dysfunctional disruption to a relationship and it can cause painful deep wounds.

If silence is your “go to” coping mechanism or you are the recipient of chronic silent treatments, the pain that exists in that space is real. There are ways to break such a cycle and they are worth exploring. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.


Nicie Lee is a Christian Life Coach that can help people with matters of the heart.


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