Vibrantly colored butterfly hanging next to cocoonsA lot of us were raised to believe the old dictum, “The squeaky wheel get’s the grease.” But as with any truth, there is a downside as well as an upside.

The truth is the truth and doesn’t need to shout to be heard. And if you doubt this for a moment, remember a time when you asked someone close to you what was wrong and they said, “nothing.” Silence, we discover, can be deafening — sometimes painfully deafening.

We all know that what isn’t said between people is still heard. What we forget is that what’s important often does not stand out but is simply standing quietly, simmering, the fuse burning.

For a lot of people, the arson in their lives is a self-arson. For the approximately 25 million people in North American suffering from addiction, addiction is a self-immolation. Addiction locks the victim in his or her own house and then burns down the house.

How does this happen? It happens because what we don’t address in our life will still have our address. A problem avoided is a crisis invented. And with addiction, avoidance doesn’t knock on the door, it kicks the door down.

Addiction is as much an addiction to self-deceit as it is to a substance. Addiction is a denial made mortally louder for its silencing of the truth. Addiction does not come screaming into one’s life, it comes in under the cover of denial. It asks, “Who me?” It sneaks in on little cat feet and then leaves you in the lion’s cage. And the lion is always hungry for more.

For those seeking recovery from addiction, the decision to seek help is more about a quiet commitment than a public announcement. The conversation is often first whispered to one’s self and higher power – “Please, God, I need help” – rather than shouted from a rooftop.

In most social situations, the people who speak softly, are the people we lean in to hear. To hear the truth, we only have to listen for our deafness. People who are always shouting at us are usually trying to convince themselves and think volume is a polygraph test. Pushing a finger into someone’s chest and telling them you don’t need help is often a cry for help.

Too many of us crank up the volume in our music, in our life, in our busyness, so we can be self-distracting. Too many of us think if we’re not doing something we’re not doing anything. But wisdom is learning that sometimes what you don’t do, or stop doing, can be the most important thing you do.

It is the silence between the notes that makes the music. And if you want the music in your life to be a little sweeter, perhaps think about working on your silences. If you want life to be better for someone you love who is suffering from addiction, perhaps ask them to listen to what they are working so hard not to hear.

My friends, our work in life isn’t what we do but who we are. We’re all in recovery; we’re all recovering from who we are to who we might yet be. A great person is someone trying to be a better person.

Hard work isn’t always loud and it is seldom shouting, “look at me!” George Carlin once said, “The caterpillar does all the work, and the butterfly get’s all the applause.”

Do your work, quietly. But do the work, and you will quietly, beautifully, discover you are a butterfly, and your wings are just now drying in the sun.

What’s important often does not stand out but is simply standing quietly, waiting to soar.


Noah benShea is one of North America’s most respected and beloved poet-philosophers. An international bestselling author of 23 books translated into 18 languages, his inspirational thoughts have appeared on more than 30 million Starbucks coffee cups, and his weekly columns on life were published for five years by The New York Times Regional Syndicate. In addition to his many other accomplishments, he serves as Philosopher in Residence for Foundations Recovery Network. Find out more HERE.