I'm the first to admit that I talk a lot. Probably a lot more than necessary. I used to not even think about how much I talked, and I'm sure I got on many people's nerves because of it. As I grow older and continue to learn about the Christian life and areas where I need work, I've been convicted and encouraged to limit just how much talking I do. As Shakespeare aptly put it, "Brevity is the soul of wit." And there are good reasons for keeping silent. I'd like to highlight one from King Solomon.
In Proverbs 17:28, Solomon writes, "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent." The initial point is clear: silence = wisdom. But there's something deeper in this passage. Solomon is speaking about the actions of a fool, one who is not wise by any stretch of the imagination. Yet because he chooses to shut his mouth, those around him perceive him to be a wise person. His folly is shielded by a wall of silence; if he were to open his mouth, that wall would disappear.
My thought is this: if a foolish person can be seen as wise (even if he isn't) because he keeps his mouth shut, why would we (who are wise by the grace of God) not seek a similar lifestyle of brevity? I shouldn't be carrying on with needless words when I could be listening to someone else.
That's one of the major issues when people spend too much time talking: they always end up talking about themselves and not paying attention to the people around them. That's why James tells the early church to be "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19). The Christian life is best lived when we are not caring about our own desires and instead caring about the needs of others, and ultimately the glory of God.
The development of social media has not helped this at all. (And I do realize I'm being a little hypocritical using a form of social media to express my distaste with social media.) People now have easy access to telling people what they want to tell about their life. Much has been written recently on how to perfect the "humblebrag" or how to be insufferable on the internet, and these kinds of posts show just how easy it is to build yourself up on public platforms. Never mind any mistakes or inconsistencies in your life; those just get pushed to the back where no one will ever be able to see them.
I want to pose a challenge to you this week: Be quiet. Not completely, but enough to where you are listening to people more than you are talking about yourself. And as someone is opening up to you, don't feel you need to have an immediate response. Take a beat or two to collect your thoughts, and then speak. And when you do speak, speak from Truth. "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6). Watch yourself to see how much time you are talking, as opposed to how much time you are listening. You're not going to be able to change any bad habits right away, but make a point to spot them. Then pray that the Lord would guide you as you work to change those bad habits ultimately for good. Remember that silence is the wise choice.
A simple servant of the Master.