When Silence is Golden
Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.
Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.
Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
There are many scriptures that talk about talk. We are encouraged to use our words to edify others, to bless the Lord, and to proclaim the wisdom of God. One strand of thinking, however, stands so directly against the prevailing cultural norms that it almost seems like an odd foreign concept.
Its simple central idea is that sometimes it’s best to stay quiet and choose not to talk. Take a look at our society and culture and realize how much we are encouraged to keep talking. Every reality show includes people going on (and on) about what they are worried about, how they feel, and their thoughts on a myriad of different subjects. Nearly every interview—even sports interviews—urges the interviewee to tell us how he/she feels about this or that, or how he/she felt when such and such happened.
Proverbs 10:19a says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking.” Nowhere is that more evident than in today’s media outlets. At the risk of your mental health, try listening to a reality show for a while, and you’ll see that the participants are forced to share an unnatural and unhealthy amount of expressed thoughts. Other than the vapidity of many of the thoughts, the other damage done to us as a society is the suggestion that this kind of oversharing and overexpressing is the norm, or should be the norm.
To produce this quantity of talk, people have to keep connecting to their thoughts and feelings about whatever subject is being addressed. This produces an unhealthy inwardness and self-centeredness, as the focus keeps going back to what a person feels and thinks. We could easily come away with an inflated impression of our thoughts just because so many of them have been produced. As believers, what we should be thinking about and expressing is what the Lord thinks about a given issue, and our thoughts about people should be how we can show them the love of God, not how they measure up as a potential audience for us.
Instead of venting all our feelings, let’s be wise and hold them back. If we’re tempted toward wrath, let’s behave in such a way that others don’t know what we’re feeling. And who wouldn’t want to be considered wise and perceptive? None of the scriptures above promote stuffing one’s feelings inside and doing internal emotional damage. But not every feeling/thought/emotion needs verbal expression. Many should be brought to God instead, and some should simply be allowed to die a normal, healthy, unexpressed death.
We must position ourselves against the pattern of continual expression too often found in our society. Try thinking before saying anything today. Of course it will feel awkward at first. But you may just discover the joy of not having to express yourself and the peace that will accompany the holding of your peace.
Prayer: Father, help me to speak when I need to, and resist the temptation when I don’t. Help my thoughts to become focused outwardly on You and others, and less focused on me and my thoughts. I want to be taught the value of being silent.