The grace of silence
“I will watch my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue. I will bridle my mouth while wicked people are in my presence.” Psalms 39:1 (GW)
“ But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:18 (HCSB)
Have you ever spoken out of turn and immediately regretted doing so? Unfortunately, once words are spoken there is no way that they can be retrieved! So the solution to the problem is not uttering them. I sometimes wonder if maybe the amazing invention of duck tape might be a solution. Not only is it good for most emergency repairs but it seems it may be an excellent tool for sealing people’s lips (including my own) to prevent them uttering irretrievable words! It sometimes seems our mouths have ways of running out of control (I have to confess that mine does at times, maybe too often). There is a saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally, but we seldom seem able to follow this maxim.
The Bible stresses that what one verbalizes is an accurate indicator of what is in the heart (Matthew 12:34). If our words bless and encourage others, they provide evidence of a compassionate heart. When others are in crisis, do they feel that they will find peace and comfort through our words? Do our words and manner in which we say them reflect a calm and patient heart? Each of these behaviors indicate a Christ-like heart.
How often do we regret our words? Are there people at this moment hurting because of something we might have said? Do we encourage gossip? Do we tend to be critical of others? Do hurtful words spew from our mouth when we are upset or angry? All of these situations reflect the absence of Christ’s love in our heart.
It is common to excuse our blurting out of thoughtless words by saying, “That is just the way I am or I was having a bad day”. However, do these utterances or similar remarks erase the pain of offended recipient? Scripture clearly states that an abusive tongue is not under control of the Holy Spirit (James 3: 3-19) and surely these outbursts do not reflect the loving words of our Lord! So what are we to do? I doubt we would agree with the aforementioned duck tape solution. However, it seems, an essential first step is to ask forgiveness of the person whom we offended as well as the Lord. Then to urgently appeal to Him to discipline our tongues so that every word we speak will encourage and edify others rather than causing verbal injury.
A final thought, although we are frequently critical of the small defects of others we tend to overlook the larger faults in ourselves (Matthew 7:5). Further, we are often quick to complain about what we must put up with others, with never a thought of what others might suffer from us! If we attempt to see ourselves as we really are, we would find less cause to judge others. Consequently, our prayers for wisdom when to speak and when to remain silent should also be accompanied by a plea for the grace of silence.
Silence is always a powerful tool in almost every circumstance and situation. We can use silence to increase our understanding and to learn about people with whom we encounter. In silence we can gain power to refuel our brain by turning our thoughts inward and let our inner voice speak. Further, silence provides the opportunity for us to regain and maintain our self-control. However, probably the main value is to use this time to ask Him to give you words to speak and/or the grace to remain silent according to His will. Amen