Continuing from where we left off last week, remember that there is a time to speak and a time to keep our mouths shut. Here are more examples of when it’s best to remain silent:
11. When you are tempted to outright lie. People lie for a variety of reasons: to protect themselves or another person, out of fear of being judged or condemned, to create drama or damage another person’s reputation. Take a moment and reconsider, for those who lie will eventually be revealed and suffer scars upon their character as well as have to face the consequences of their actions. Proverbs 10:21 “The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.”
12. If your words will damage another person’s reputation or cause them any unnecessary hardships. We all have dirt on one another – those little secrets that others think we don’t know about. And we all have things about ourselves we would like to keep private. We have a choice as to whether we share that information with others or allow it to remain confidential. Before revealing anything that could possibly cause anyone any harm, examine your motives. Is this absolutely necessary that I do so or is it in the best interest of all to allow said information to remain concealed?
13. If your words will destroy a relationship, either yours or someone else’s. At times, we’ve all wanted to tell people what we really think about them. In the heat of anger, true feelings are often revealed without thought as to how they will affect either or both parties. Criticisms, complaints, bitterness, jealousy, judgments, and hatred can all destroy relationships. A moment of contemplation before speaking can prevent a landslide of devastation. Even those unkind words we say to ourselves can cause irreparable damage to our self-esteem. Make certain your words always emanate from a place of kindness.
14. When you are tempted to criticize. Constructive criticism is an oxymoron. It does not exist. It is a ploy that disguises a hurtful comment as helpful one. The one criticizing gains a sense of power over the other person, eliciting feels of shame, hurt, remorse, or self-loathing from them. Criticism in its authentic form is demoralizing and cruel. Keep in mind, too, that one must first live in a spotless house before condemning another’s. I recommend offering constructive suggestions to bring forth positive change.
15. If you can’t speak without yelling. Humans somehow believe that in order to gain someone’s attention or cooperation they must raise their voices to an extreme decibel level. “The louder I speak the more they’ll hear me.” Like the sound of loud construction equipment, people at excessively loud noises and take measures to protect their ears from damage. People either tune out shouting or, like me, physically remove themselves from the source. Take a deep breath before speaking and keep the volume at a reasonable level.
16. When it’s time to listen. Isaiah 50:4 “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.” We are commanded to listen to and obey the Word of God. Keep in mind that God created two ears and only one mouth – for a reason! We are meant to listen twice as much as we speak. But listening involves more than just the ears: we must also be willing to listen with our hearts so that we may feel what the other is saying.
17. If you may have to offer an apology afterwards. Carpenters have a rule of thumb: measure twice, cut once. There is much wisdom in this ethic as one wastes less time and material by taking careful measures to make an accurate cut the first time. We would be wise to apply this knowledge to our words as well: think twice, speak once. Too often, we are careless in our choice of words and in retrospect realize they were not the best choice. In these cases, it becomes necessary to offer an apology for any insensitive comments we made. As powerful as an expression of remorse it, it cannot undo the damage our words causes. Like a board that was incorrectly cut, the carpenter can glue it back together but the blemish remains forever.
18. If you have already said it more than once. I have learned that people will either hear you or not. They will chose to understand you or not. Regardless of how often you repeat yourself, some people are simply not interested in what you have to say or they may not be capable of understanding it. You may offer a bit of clarity if the other person is unclear on what you meant. But to keep repeating the same thing over and over is called nagging. People turn a deaf ear to badgering.
19. When you are tempted to support, agree with, encourage, or condone a person’s bad behaviors. Would you ever advise your children to use drugs or drink and drive? Of course not. Any good parents would always encourage their children to make smart choices. Those who are believers in God teach them to live a morally righteous life, to follow God’s Commandments, to always be kind and honest. How, then can I support or condone immoral behavior from others? To tell my coworker to get even with a colleague who betrayed them is reprehensible on my part. To hope a criminal gets the death penalty for the heinous crime they committed violates Divine Law. Unless I can be the voice of reason, the bearer of virtuous behavior, I need to remain silent rather than give morally wrong advice. Ephesians 4:29 ” 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.”
20. When you are supposed to be working instead. There’s an interesting passage in the Bible in Proverbs 14:23 “All hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty.” I have always had difficulty talking and working at the same time. I am unable to put my full concentration on the task at hand. In that regard, I would often make careless errors or costly mistakes. One needs to put their full mental concentration on the task before them in order to put forth their best work. Idle chatter is distracting and counter-productive.
21. When you’re fighting a losing battle. When disputes arise, we often feel compelled to continue to try and convince the other party that we’re right and they’re wrong. Unless we are dealing with facts, Truth, or issues of morality, differences are not necessarily an indication of being right or wrong. They are simply disagreements, each party seeing things from a different perspective. If you find yourself trying to prove your “rightness”, let it go. This type of behavior is all ego based: one needs to prove themselves superior over another.
22. When what you are about to say will only make matters worse. If someone has made an error or is feeling poorly about themselves, we have the option of being a light in the darkness for them, helping them to see the goodness in who they are, or contributing to their already low self-image. If your son doesn’t make the football team because he’s overweight and out of shape, offer some assistance in helping him to improve so he can try again next year or try out for a sport more suitable for him. Make certain that your words are always encouraging and uplifting.
Proverbs 21:23: “Whosoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from trouble.”
23. When you talk just to fill up the silence or to hear yourself talk. People are often uncomfortable in the silence. They feel compelled to offer a distraction by filling the space with words. However, as an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, idle chatter can be just as dangerous. Rambling can lead to all sorts of foolish statements, irreverent comments, offensive observations, rude humor, and so on. Additionally, when we are busy chattering we are not listening – to the other party or to God. Silence truly is golden for it is in the stillness that one hears the Word of God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, o let your words be few.”
Conversation is highly overrated. There is both intelligence and beauty in silence. Listen to the stillness. Know when it’s best not to say anything at all.
Q: “Life isn’t a competition. It’s a cooperation. Until we are willing to stop fighting to prove our superiority and gain dominance over others and join together to uplift one another, we will never establish world peace.”
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