Much of Dr. Stephanie Bennett’s career has centered around talking, yet “there is a gift to silence,” she said.
In a Sept. 22 forum at the Warren Library, Bennett, professor of communication and media ecology, discussed her recently published book, “Silence, Civility, and Sanity: Hope for Humanity in a Digital Age.” Though not a technophobe, she took issue with how people today use technology to communicate with others.
Social media platforms share speech easily, quickly, but often harmfully, she noted. “Speech was made to lift people up, not belittle them,” and just because one has the ability to speak one’s mind, does not always mean it should be used, she said.
“Speech can only take us so far,” Bennett said. “We all want our voices to be heard, but just speaking louder is not going to cut it.” Instead, she suggested silence as a helpful tool in communicating. Pausing in silence, listening to others and to God, she said, helps us follow Christ’s call “not just to be neighbors but to know our neighbors.”
Some people view silence as a sign of weakness, she said, and they don’t know how to be silent in a healthy way. They may become extreme introverts or extreme extroverts. Typically when this occurs, she said, the introverts look down on the extroverts, and vice versa. They miss “the deeper level: our commonality of being made in the image of God.”
Prayerful silence, Bennett said, can allow extroverts and introverts alike to examine their own hearts, learning to hear and appreciate those who are different. And Christians must remember that the Good News “does not sound like good news when it is not being received.”
Bennett is director of Wordship, PBA’s initiative to promote healthy, healing conversation, in the spoken word and written word as well. She shared her thoughts in the library forum with the help of Dr. Terriel Byrd, professor of urban Christian ministry. Some 60 students, faculty and staff gathered for the discussion.
Bennett’s new book is published by Lexington Books, a division of Rowman and Littlefield.
Photo 1: Dr. Stephanie Bennett talks with Dr. Terriel Byrd during a discussion of her new book “Silence, Civility, and Sanity: Hope for Humanity in a Digital Age.”
Photo 2: Students, faculty and staff fill the Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library for a discussion of Dr. Stephanie Bennett’s new book.