“The one who knows much says little;
an understanding person remains calm.
Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise;
as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.” (Proverbs 17:27, 28, The Message)
Imagine a vey long, uncomfortable silence here.
Every time I read those words, I pause and reflect on the many times I have spoken out when I should have remained silent. I am also remind myself of the multiple times I have been engaged in conversations when all would have been better served by my silence.
One of the freedoms we value most is our freedom of speech. Yet it is one of the freedoms we abuse the most.
This verse from the New Testament addresses this:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)
“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29, The Message)
So this is what I try to do before I open my mouth (or type).
1. Is what I am about to say going to fuel the fire or calm the chaos? (Proverbs 17:27)
If the conversation is already tense and uncomfortable, my role should be to calm things, not to further agitate them. Making other people angry serves no purpose. There are times when I may need to speak up to confront injustice or correct an unchristian attitude, but if I end up offending or angering another person, is it really worth it? I want to be a voice that calms, a voice of peace, a voice that builds bridges with my words.
2. What are my words and tone going to reveal about me? (Proverbs 17:2)
There may be times when making a fool of myself is a good thing… if it is a worthy cause. Generally speaking, however, proving that I am a “dunce” only confirms other peoples’ suspicions. If that happens, then my credibility is gone and my chances of making a positive impact are severely diminished. I want to be a voice that encourages, instructs, and uplifts.
3. Are my words beneficial and helpful? (Ephesians 4:29)
Many of my words are kept to myself because I first ask, “Will these words benefit those who hear them?” If not, I should remain silent. If I consider my words as a gift, then I need to use them wisely, but also with restraint. I want my words to be helpful. I want my words to lift others up and encourage them. I want my words to be a gift.
Before I say something that may violate one or all three of these principles, let me be quiet and allow you to consider them. If you find any value in them, please apply them and share. If not, the best option might be silence.
A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.