Proverbs 10:19, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
This past Sunday at Church in Bethesda we started the month’s series of exploring the big themes of scripture that support civility, and this past weekend we talked about the theme of “I need to shut my mouth!” How many times does something strike us the wrong way, and a harsh or even inaccurate retort is flying before we really think things through? Are you able to see something on Facebook you don’t like and just scroll on? Can I keep my mouth shut when it really doesn’t need to be open?
The first half of the verse is challenging for a pastor, or any blogger or pundit for that matter. What? Stop multiplying words? Words are our tools! Words are an amazing gift! Our species rocks the world of words! But, still the proverb warns us of thinking that more and more words are what we need. Sometimes we need silence. The prudent know this.
pru·dent 1. acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
So here’s how I break it down, the return on investing in some quiet…
Shutting my mouth buys me time…
~ to think and reflect. I may even think of a clarifying question that gets us a lot further in our dialogue than a pointed reply.
~ to listen. The old saying is that “God gave us one mouth and two ears, so be quiet and listen!”
~ to forgive. Too much is said too soon, too loudly and too wrongly, because I want to punish and retort more than I want to forgive and extend grace.
~ to choose what I will eventually say. If given a chance, on almost any day, how much of what we say would we say differently? If only we had a 10 second delay on our speech, hmmmm?
~ to stop a fight before it even gets started. That’s choice peacemaker stuff right there!
~ to stop a fight after it gets started by breaking the cycle. Because someone has to break that cycle of responses and one-uppers. Again, peacemaking instead of peacebreaking.
Developing the art of shutting my mouth is not saying that words aren’t important or valuable, but in truth, it’s living like my words actually are important and valuable. It comes down to being aware of my words. Have I given myself time to make sure that my words are going to support the future instead of killing it before it has a chance to happen? If I go quiet on you, don’t worry… I’m probably just trying to buy myself the time I need to really value you and the words I’ll eventually say.