What can I answer to thee, I who have spoken so freely, that is, so indiscreetly, and so foolishly? I shall put mine hand upon my mouth.
(Job 40:4 WYC)
Think of times when you have ‘sounded off’ and been too insistent about something – only to later regret what you have said. It’s impossible to withdraw words once we have spoken them – in fact it can be altogether too much like trying to gather up confetti that has scattered to the wind, or feathers that have escaped from a pillow. (Please see this powerful article for more on this thought).
The image the Lord has placed on me is that of Jesus being brought, bound, before Pilate, refusing to say a word in order to vindicate Himself against wild accusations and false charges. (Mark 15:2-5)
This cannot be a blanket model for every situation; there are many times when it is extremely important that we do speak up, whether to share the truths and wisdom that the Lord has invested in us, or to provide explanations that can resolve tension, defuse misunderstandings and point people in the right direction. Think of Paul setting Peter and the other apostles to rights in the Council of Jerusalm in Acts 15, and so saving the Church from embracing deadly error. But there are definitely other times when it is best to say less – or even nothing at all.
When we are tempted to sound off in all directions, are we trying to hard to vindicate ourselves and to get our own way – or are we sensing the call to speak out for the lord as He gives wisdom?
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. [and kind, and well chosen . . .] (Ecc. 5:2)
We will, of couirse, find plenty of good things to do with the time we have ‘bought back’ by not speaking out so much long . . . it’s so good to press on and call on the Lord in the quiet of our hearts using inner rather than outer words!
I was moved by Richard Cranshaw’s 1646 poem “Matthew 27”
And he answered them nothing. . .
O Mighty Nothing! unto Thee,
Nothing, we owe all things that be.
God spake once when He all things made,
He sav’d all when He Nothing said.
The world was made of Nothing then;
’Tis made by Nothing now again.
Before we finish reflecting on the theme of saying nothing, here’s a really interesting take on why this can sometimes be the best course of action.
Cf this link to Practising His Presence with the Jesus prayer.