The Japanese have a word, ma, meaning a gap, a space, a pause. It’s a spatial and consciousness concept that refers to an emptiness between two objects, an emptiness that allows everything around it to stand out and have meaning.
In Japanese art, the ma between visual elements is striking, focusing your attention on minimal elements such as human figures, flowers, or trees. In the Japanese interior design of a traditional tatami room featuring minimal furnishings and floor mats upon which to sit, the ma allows space for peace and quiet.
The same applies to a pause in speaking, singing, music, and even comedy. In all these cases, the message includes and is enhanced by pauses. Perhaps this is why we often hear the phrase, “a pregnant pause.” Usually we are thinking and speaking so fast, we seldom think about pauses. And yet the pause in communication can have significant meaning, even substance.
Consider How Many Times We Uses Pauses in Sentences
In daily and public speaking, there are different types of pauses. Consider how many pause elements we use in sentences, including commas, periods, colons, semi-colons, exclamation points, underlines. Each refers to a different type of pause, and each enhances the meaning of the sentence.
Next time you speak or write something, note how many times you pause and why.
In conversation, pausing before speaking and not interrupting shows you respect the other person’s opinion. Instead of quickly responding to a comment made by a spouse, friend, or co-worker, a pause such as the proverbial “counting to ten” can help you maintain peace and possibly your job. When you pause to reflect on how to respond, your patience will reward you with the appropriate response.
Strategic Pauses Make a Big Difference
Strategically placed pauses in our fast-paced lives can make a big difference in our emotional, mental, and physical well-being, as well as our relationships and professional lives. Pausing before you start your day, before beginning your meals, and at bedtime, can enrich your day.
Taking time to “smell the roses” as you pause to enjoy an experience, savor a special meal or simply “be” in the moment, can make all the difference between a mundane, humdrum day, and a great day.
If you’ve ever wondered why the word “Selah” appears so many times in the Book of Psalms and three times Habakkuk, you are not alone. Scholars suggest it could mean a time to pause and reflect on the meaning of the verses, or musical pause, giving people time to listen.
Most importantly, in your spiritual life, taking time to pause before praying, before worshiping with your church community, and before serving however the Lord has called you to serve, creates space in which your mind can focus, your heart can open, and your soul can hear and react to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to God's Words
To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)
Also read: Proverbs 29:20, Zechariah 2:13, Matthew 5:37
In the Words of Others
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain
“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you're about to react harshly and you'll avoid doing and saying things you'll later regret.” Lori Deschene
Think About It
Next time you engage in conversation, pay attention to your pauses. In a separate conversation, pay attention to the other’s pauses. Think about the significance of the pauses. What could you do differently to enhance your conversation skills?
Recall examples of how pauses play a role in your relationships at home, at work, and at play based on what you read above. What do you think about this? Would you change anything?
How do you think pausing could enhance your spiritual life, especially your prayer life, your fellowship experiences, and the effectiveness of your Christian walk and service?