Silence: A Fool’s Best Friend

June 2, 2002

SILENCE: A FOOL’S BEST FRIEND by Ray Pritchard “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:28 This certainly is one of the most encouraging proverbs. It offers hope for all of us who basically make our living with words. Here are a few other verses on this same subject: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (10:19). “A man of understanding holds his tongue” (11:12b). “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (13:3). “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (21:23). Truth-telling begins with silence. Speak less and you will speak more truthfully. The more you say, the more likely you are to exaggerate, to slander, to mislead and to stretch the truth. A few years ago I heard a man say, “Feel free to have no opinion on that.” What a novel thought–“Feel free to have no opinion.” I think that struck me because in my younger, brasher days I felt like I should be ready to discourse intelligently on any subject. Ask a question and I was ready with an answer, an opinion, or an argument. I now understand that there are many areas about which I know nothing. For instance, if you ask a question about the history of China, I don’t know enough to make a useful contribution. Maybe someday I’ll know more about China than I do right now, but for the moment, I’m better off not opening my mouth. It’s okay not to know all the answers. It’s also okay not to offer an opinion on every passing fad. You don’t have to dominate every conversation or try to be an expert on everything. You can’t, you aren’t, everyone knows it, and if you try to fake it, eventually you’ll be exposed by someone who really does know what he’s talking about. I think it was Calvin Coolidge who declared that he never got in trouble for something he didn’t say. While I wouldn’t care to press that to the extreme (after all, there are times when silence is wrong), his point is still well taken. Say less, but make your words count. Creative silence means listening more, saying less, and praying instead of interrupting. Pray for wisdom! Pray for God’s guidance! Pray for understanding! Pray for God’s love to be manifested in your speech! Say what you need to say and then stop talking. It’s those “extra” words that usually get us into trouble. And remember, just because you’re thinking something doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud. The Bible is clear on this point. The more we speak, the less truth we tell. If we want to become more truthful, the first step is to stop talking.

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