“A fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”Proverbs 29:11
So it all comes full circle. I, Trey Earle, a self-proclaimed wordsmith, am commonly labeled by my friends and family as verbose and loquacious. As soon as I begin speaking, I see the eye rolls, the glances away, the comments, “Here we go….,” from my family, my friends, and even my students. Concision in speech or language is certainly one of my flaws. While I would like to think that I simply (pun intended) paint a “full story” and err on the side of making sure that my audience fully understands the positions upon which I speak or write, truth be told, my verbosity and loquaciousness are likely the reasons why I have difficulty meeting journal publishing guidelines for my research. It is also why I fail to get across my thoughts in a full “tweet” on the social media platform, Twitter, whose maximum allowable characters policy just is not fair to talkative types like me. They say silence is golden, a lesson that I hopefully will soon learn.
Over the last several weeks I have been accused of not denouncing nor conforming to a common belief, position, or stance, and in these failures, I have been shouting louder than one who actually did speak up. What a Catch-22! I suppose I kept my thoughts to myself because I was always taught that if I did not have something nice to say, I should not say anything at all. The fact is that I like what I do for a living, the position in my life that I have worked so hard to reach, and the friends that I have, so I stay silent so as not to perturb those who can make decisions that could threaten these facets of my life. For the most part, I suppose one could call me a part of the silent majority. Believe it or not, there are a multitude of others in our world today who are doing just as I am.
Yet, I am tormented. As an educator of nearly 20 years, I want so much to “school” these masses of people who think differently than me, but if I engage them, I know that God would be disappointed in me. Despite trying to avoid the news altogether, I find myself learning of new political and social narratives through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Friends, family members, and other acquaintances take no issue with interjecting falsehoods or stances with which I vehemently disagree.
Meanwhile, inside of me, I often feel a rage building. I feel my mind and my heart begin to fill with a sense of hate and retaliation while I remain silent. But I hold my tongue and I pray that God helps me quell the feelings of hate and retaliation, and that He gives me strength to always do what is in the best interest of the common good. By stating my positions, I hold to the possibility that God would think of stating my rebuttals as argumentative, petty, and certainly not for the greater good of people. And while I may think of myself as objective, open-minded and open to discourse, nonetheless this is a dangerous path for me, so I remain silent.
Over the last several weeks, upon these accusations of me, I have done some thinking. What would God’s Word through the scriptures have me to do? Proverbs 29:11 gives me great insight. “A fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” Basically, Trey, hold your tongue. Less speaking, more listening.
We learn a valuable lesson from a one-sentence proverb. Fools talk a lot. They cannot keep their mouths shut. Any little thought, no matter how frivolous, no matter how unstudied, no matter how inappropriate, must come rushing out. But a wise man speaks carefully. He does not speak hastily, or without study, or offer opinions as truth. He rules his mouth to choose wise words and wait for the right timing.
I think the Bible suggests to us that haphazard talkers are fools. If fools talk arrogantly, hastily, or loudly, they confirm their folly even more, for fools love the sound of their own voice and think others should love their voices also. Fools think they have wisdom to share and that others are blessed to hear them, so they become angry when they are eventually isolated due to their ignorant and obnoxious speech.
Knowing the right time to speak requires discretion and prudence, two branches of wisdom the fool never considers. After all, Solomon said there is a time for everything, including, “…a time to keep silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
The Bible provides us more insight to foolish speech. If a fool could keep his mouth shut, he would be thought wise (Proverbs 17: 27-28). But he cannot do it, for he has never held back words in his life: he has no will nor power to do so. He must pour out foolish ideas in the hope of satisfying his agitated conceit, but it will never happen; when he runs out of things to say, he keeps talking anyway (Proverbs 15:2). The more I consider these proverbs, the more I begin to think that they are directed at me, for as Psalm 141:3 basically states, it is much better for me to ask the Lord to, “Set a watch before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
Wise men “restrain speech” (Proverbs 17:27-28), “study before answering” (Proverbs 15:28), “are slow to speak” (James 1:19), “choose words carefully” (Proverbs 15:23-26), and “wait for the right time to say them” (Proverbs 25:11). Discretion and prudence, then, are the guardians of wisdom, for they restrain words and actions until one can grasp a situation clearly and can wisely choose a godly response (Proverbs 16:21, 19:11, and 22:3).
Biblical history shows examples of fools and wise men and women. Samson suffered greatly by uttering his heart and failing to resist the urging of Delilah to open up and speak (Judges 16:17). Abigail waited until Nabal overcame his drinking and feast pleasures from the night before to give him bad news (1 Samuel 25:36). Samuel was told by God to tell Saul only a portion of his mind (1 Samuel 16:1-3). Even Paul, while in court, declared only part of his relationship to the Pharisees as he perceived that half of the council were Sadducees and the other half were Pharisees (Acts 23:6).
Ephesians 4:29 tells us to, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” while Colossians 4:6 tells us to, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
So while I and many others may be part of the silent majority, perhaps it is because God commands us to remain wise and not become foolish, a lesson that every soul under His watch and purview would really serve to learn. We are all in this together, no doubt. But let’s all be silent and learn when and how to speak objectively instead of being brash and brazen in our thoughts, opinions and language. Amen?
A short prayer: “Lord, we offer you this moment of silence, a moment solely for You. We consent to your action in our minds and hearts, in our wills and souls, and we welcome Your actions always. To make room for You, we will sit here quietly with our eyes closed and with attitudes of peaceful rest and loving devotion, ready to welcome You. We will slow down our thoughts and imaginations, calm down our fears and emotions, and try to exercise patience, discretion, prudence, and humility, so that we may be better stewards to others. For it is in Your son, Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.”
Offered by Trey Earle
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