When to be silent

Have you ever felt upset with yourself for saying something that was unnecessary? Or maybe you have been at the receiving end of someone just lashing out and saying things that now seem to be engraved in your mind forever?

Scripture says that what has been stored up in our hearts will be heard in the overflow of our words! (Matthew 12:34). We all stumble in many things, and if anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man. (James 3:2). So the root matter to be dealt with is not only the bridling of the tongue, though that is very important too – it is the condition of our hearts.

We need to ask the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds into the image of the Lord Jesus. Romans 12:2 says, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Furthermore, it is possible for us to grow in wisdom to discern those times the enemy wants to tempt us into saying or doing things that are really not displaying the fruit of the Spirit or the character of Christ.


Discern and recognise when to remain silent

How can we discern and recognise times when it is really better to remain quiet? Following are some guidelines that may help you to hold your tongue!


1. Be silent in the heat of anger (Proverbs 14:17). Always give yourself at least an hour, or a day or two to deal with your feelings of anger before responding to someone or a situation. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you do this. You will be surprised how relationships will be preserved by just following this one principle.

2. Be silent when you don’t have all the facts (Proverbs 18:13). Taking sides with someone sharing a heartfelt story is a very natural response for most of us. Always listen attentively and ask straight questions to ensure you have more info than just the heart-moving part of the story shared with you.

3. Be silent when you haven’t verified the story (Deuteronomy 17:6). Also tell the person sharing information with you, that you want to find out more about the matter to see how you can address the situation. This conduct will caution people not to approach you with stories that are not true.

4. Be silent if your words will offend a weaker person (1 Corinthians 8:11). Sometimes we know we are right, but enforcing that on another person may do harm to your relationship or their faith. In such cases it is unneccesary to be ‘right’ at all cost.


We have one mouth and two ears!


5. Be silent when it is time to listen (Proverbs 13:1). We have one mouth and two ears! Sometimes it is good just to listen. Often times after someone has shared their story with a listening ear, they are at peace and nothing needs to be done at all. You don’t always have to respond.

6. Be silent when you are tempted to make light of holy things (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Sometimes we are in conversation and people start to make fun of ‘church’ things. Slowly the conversation deteriorates further into disrespect for the things of God. Do not participate in such a conversation and if possible, warn the group to refrain from that course of discussion.

7. Be silent when you are tempted to joke about sin (Proverbs 14:9). Someone who sins should never be laughed at or made light of, for example when someone is drunk and acts indecently. Ask the Lord to give you compassion on those who suffer because of unwise and harmful lifestyles. Watch that you do not fall into the same temptations, which can easily happen.


Will it be acceptable to God?


8. Be silent if you would be ashamed of your words later (Proverbs 8:8). Peer pressure can cause us to do and say things which, if they were to be made public, would put us to shame. Always consider if your words will be acceptable to someone you respect. Will it be acceptable to God?

9. Be silent if your words would convey the wrong impression (Proverbs 17:27). Sometimes it is impossible to convey a thought in a way that will not be misunderstood. At such times it is better to be silent.

10. Be silent if the issue is none of your business (Proverbs 14:10). Do not step into a fight that is not your fight. Stand back and just pray in your heart. Let prayer be your contribution.

11. Be silent when you are tempted to tell a lie (Proverbs 4:24). When we are under pressure, it is so easy to tell a little lie to rectify a situation, save someone else or even ourselves. Do not answer with or tell a lie.


Don’t speak badly about others.


12. Be silent if your words will damage someone else’s reputation (Proverbs 16:27). When someone’s conduct is controversial it is so easy to look for something bad to say about them, especially when it comes to politicians of the day! Whether or not they are deserving of blessing or not, ask the Holy Spirit to help you never speak badly about others, no matter who they are.

13. Be silent if your words will damage a friendship (Proverbs 16:28). A friendship is worth more than words. Do not say or do anything that will damage a relationship.

14. Be silent when you are feeling critical (James 3:9). Though it is right to address a matter that is wrong, the heart attitude with which we address it is what is meant here. Ask the Holy Spirit to settle your heart before addressing a matter.


No shouting, please.


15. Be silent if you can’t say it without shouting (Proverbs 25:28). If you feel you will not be heard if you do not raise your voice, it is a good cue to be quiet completely. We never need to raise our voice to lord over anyone else.

16. Be silent if your words will be a poor reflection of the Lord (1 Peter 2:21-23). Non-believers often watch us to see how we are different from others. Once they find something to accuse Believers of, they feel they have the ‘right to reject God’. Therefore keep in mind what your words reflect about God.

17. Be silent if you may have to eat your words later (Proverbs 18:21). Is it not better to be quiet rather than having to repent or apologise later? Death and life is in the power of the tongue! Always ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep quiet in such moments.

18. Be silent if you have already said it more than once (Proverbs 19:13). Sometimes we can feel we have not made ourselves heard the first time, and we repeat a matter again and again, using different words. This can cause friction with other people and even deminish what was originally said.


Avoid a flattering tongue…


19. Be silent when you are tempted to flatter a wicked person (Proverbs 24:24). Be careful to never speak well of what is wrong and evil, even for the sake of flattery or favour. Just be quiet.

20. Be silent when you are supposed to be working instead (Proverbs 14:23). Chatting the day away while you are paid to work is not right! Ask the Lord to help you refrain from such dishonest conduct.

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