22220.057 Shut up!

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:28)

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. (Proverbs 10:19)

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. (Proverbs 11:12)

I have a wonderful gift…and an awful curse…all rolled into one bodily organ, my tongue. I have a short link between my mind and my mouth and am a born communicator. Dead-air space prompts me to think I should speak. Ouch! How many times in my life that “gift” has gotten me in big trouble. It has taken me far too long to learn there are times when I should be silent in every language I know.

Maybe you can relate.

James said that a person who can control his tongue has life mastered. “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check” (James 3:2).

Principle: Silence truly is “golden,” and talk truly is “cheap.” Only God can enable us to discern when to exchange the talk which is cheap for the quietness which is golden.

I suppose this teaching could be called the “biblical doctrine of shut­ting up.” I love the humor Solomon’s boys put in this teaching. It contrasts a quiet fool with a talkative one. Someone has said it is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt. Proverbs recommends keeping quiet because you might even be thought intelligent with your mouth shut!

When I was in management, we used to do an exercise to dramatize the difference between talk and influence. We played a game in which groups of eight to ten were to pretend that they were stranded on the moon with only one chance to get back to earth alive—take the most crucial objects from a long list and leave on the moon all those that might safely be left behind. The zinger in the game was that every single member of the group had to agree on the rank order of each of the items on the list!

After a considerable amount of discussion, the groups presented their lists. Then the organizational facilitator asked each group to line up its members in order of participation—the most talkative to those who participated the least. At this point, the talkers felt mighty good about themselves…at the head of each line.

Then the facilitator asked the members of each group to rearrange their lines based on whose comments made the most impact on the ultimate group decision. In nearly every case, there were those who moved from the back to the head of this new line, people who had been quiet a lot during the discussions. When they did speak, however, everybody listened!

The exercise revealed that talking a lot gave way to speaking wisdom to the group and its final decisions. Repeatedly in Proverbs, fools are described as babbling nonsense, listening too little, and wanting only to air their own opinions. Formulas for disaster.

Years ago, when Johnny Carson was in his heyday with the NBC Tonight Show, he had a ditzy blonde actress as a guest. She babbled incoherently and incessantly as the middle-aged man who sat beside her observed. Finally, in a brief moment between her babbles—probably to catch her breath—the man asked, “Do you have any unexpressed thoughts?”

Principle: There are times to speak and times to keep silent. Unexpressed thoughts will never get you in trouble. In fact, some might even read your timely moments of silence as intelligence! At times, tell yourself to “shut up.”