If you’re anything like me, speaking up is no problem for you. Whether you want to debate an issue, give advice, or simply just make your voice heard and recognized, words are the gateway to achieving that goal. It doesn’t matter – big group, small get together, or one-on-one conversation- I believe everyone wants to make their opinions heard at one time or another. The frequency of this may differ, however, it is just instilled in us to make our voices known and considered. I found myself wondering why that is, though. This week, I embarked on a super convicting journey in discovering why I find myself wanting to blurt out whatever pops into my mind without giving it a second thought. In addition, I found that my desire to “throw up” whatever is on my brain doesn’t always come from good intentions or God.
I think it is a recurring theme in our society today to speak up and speak out. With every rally, every protest, every philosophical or intellectual debate, every opinion- it is just instilled in the culture that we live in. It is praised and encouraged to speak out about a variety of different topics. The world sees these declarations as a bold and courageous thing. They see it as a sign of power or authority, a sign of knowledge. It is something to commend. For example, having the last word is perceived to have the power in the conversation or argument. Obviously, words have power. In fact, the tongue itself has the power of life and death, but when should we refrain from speaking? When should we just, well, shut up? Though the world may define declining to speak as a form of weakness, it is anything but that in the eyes of God. Sometimes, more often times than not, it is just simply not necessary to talk. There are many specific times that the Bible orders us to shut up, and I am currently in the process of studying out twenty different reasons and times why and when she should hold our tongue, however, I will only touch on a few for now.
Answering Before Listening
In Proverbs 18:13, it is pretty straightforward about how God views a hasty tongue.
“To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”
But what is He getting at? Well, the main thing happening in this scenario is a person speaking before they understand what they are answering. Has that ever happened to you? Someone automatically inserts themselves into the conversation or interrupts you because they think they know what to say before hearing you out? This is not how God desires us to communicate with each other. When answering before listening, a level of narrow-mindedness, and ultimately pride, is present. Though there may be good intentions of speaking up before listening, it is still foolish and shameful. Speaking without all the facts is just unwise in the eyes of the Lord. There is also a level of impatience, here. If you or someone else cannot wait to hear the full story, but interject with their own words or opinions on the matter, there is very little consideration for what is being said. There is no patience, and according to 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient. If we are to live out a life of love, displayed in our communication with one another, then we have to cease interrupting and begin to listen actively and lovingly.
We are not entitled to critique someone or state our thoughts on the matter until we hear the full story, and even after that, we may not be entitled to say anything on the subject at hand. This reminds me of the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife(Genesis 39, check it out!), and how because Potiphar did not listen to the full account of what had happened, he understood a false account as truthful. Potiphar spoke out of anger rather than patience, and because of this, was subject to believing a lie, therefore presenting him as a fool. Seems pretty harsh, doesn’t it? Well buckle up, folks, it’s gonna be a long and convicting ride! It is so easy to give opinions on things we half-way understand, but the truth is that we will end up looking just plain ignorant and foolish if we try talking about something we honestly know very little about.
Actively listening is the key. We can’t use the person’s time talking to attempt to think about a response that we will say next. We must DESIRE understanding, and often times, listening is the perfect way to do that!
“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Proverbs 18:2
DANG. That cut me to the heart. If I only desire to assert my own opinion on a matter and do not want to fully understand the story or other side of things, then I am just a fool with a loud mouth. If we habitually parade around our own perspectives but never seek to truly understand what we are talking about, then we are but a mere fool. Listening is humility, not leaning on your own understanding. What’s even crazier is that we, as humans, are not able to control our own tongue by ourselves, either!
“no human being can tame the tongue…” – James 3:8
So we HAVE to depend on God to tame our tongue and ignite our desire for a full understanding of each situation that we are presented with.
All in all, that was just one of twenty times that I have studied when it comes to holding the tongue. After writing just one point, I realize that this post is pretty lengthy already. I plan on writing more parts to the blog, maybe making a series of “Just Shut Up”? Stay tuned, I’ll be writing more on when to keep your mouth shut in the near future!
Thanks for the support and feedback! I greatly appreciate it!