Golden Silence

Some things have been clearly seen as true for a very long time. You may have heard the old quote, “Silence is golden.” Or, perhaps you have heard the more clever, “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” These thoughts actually have a biblical backing from the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:28

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

While this verse will make us grin, it also should bring us some wise conviction. It is foolish to open your mouth and weigh in on topics you know nothing about. That should be obvious. Yet, it is a strong temptation for some of us to do just that.

A dear friend of mine often used to label himself as “often wrong, but never in doubt.” He was recognizing his own weakness in a propensity to have a strong opinion on everything, even things about which he was not really informed. And my friend was not alone there. I think that it is common for people to be tempted to feel we should weigh in and have something to say about everything.

The key here is to recognize what is our motivation for speaking. In many cases, I believe that my own failure here is to want to speak so that people will see me speaking on a topic. I want people to think I’m as smart as everybody else. If I keep my mouth shut, what if they think I don’t know as much as them? Thus, speaking into a situation where I have no knowledge is often an evidence of ungodly pride. I want the approval of men, and I’m willing to pretend to know what I do not know in order to be seen as having something to say.

Friends, let’s guard against the temptation of this pride. Let’s be honest enough to ask questions about things we do not understand rather than weighing in with opinions we cannot support. Let’s be willing to be silent and learn when there is something to learn. No, we need not be afraid to have strong opinions, even unpopular opinions in society. Nor should we fear asking hard questions. Nor do we want to allow someone to silence us just because they consider themselves an expert and they think we lack credentials—that is not at all my point. But let’s not allow ourselves to fall prey to the temptation to talk just so others will think we know something. In truth, if we speak without knowledge, we will often prove ourselves foolish.