Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When To Speak, When To Shut Up

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time and place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment”.
-Lady Dorothy Neville
I usually don’t get in too much trouble but when I do it is often because of something I said.  There are other times when the events around me challenge me to speak up and I remain silent.  More than once my wife has advised me to shut up.  I can’t actually quote her word for word but most of you can imagine how she said it.  Other times I have been chastised by people who said things like “Michael, I expected you to have more to say”.  In my defense I think I have gotten a little wiser as I have gotten older.  The end of my tongue is now square from all the times I’ve bitten it off to keep myself from speaking.  Knowing when to speak and when to shut up is a delicate skill.  There are times that we should speak.  We may need to give solace to another person with a kind and consoling word.  We may need to speak up against an injustice or to provide counsel to someone.  On the other hand, words can be hurtful or inappropriate.  Listening is almost always better than speaking and the whole world doesn’t need to hear our opinions about everything.  You know what they say about opinions.  One of the older monks at the monastery where I lived as a young man once said, “I’m come to the realization that almost nothing is any of my business”.  Another danger of speaking is falling into the dangerous quagmire of gossip.  Few of us have not fallen into that trap at least once.  I wish I had the discipline to only speak when my words made the world a better place or they gave another person encouragement or comfort.  I wish my mouth will automatically shut when my words spread gossip, hurt another person, or did not improve on silence.  The next time you speak ask yourself if you words are building up the world around you or if they are tearing it down.     

1 comment:

HiddenSigns said...

I agree, sometimes it is hard to fight the urge to speak whether for yourself or on the behalf of someone else.