Even a fool is thought wise if she keeps silent, and discerning if she holds her tongue.
One day when I was a teenager, I went with my dad to his friend’s house. I didn’t know the man so I sat quietly as they visited. I was probably daydreaming about one of my get-rich-quick schemes even though I was looking at my father’s friend as he spoke. All of the sudden he turned to me and said, “You must be a very wise girl. You’re just sitting there taking this all in.” Though I’m sure that compliment was not merited, his comment stuck with me.
Some months later, I was at home with my dad and he was lecturing me about something (bla, bla, bla). This time, I was not sitting quietly and taking it all in. Instead, I was following him around raising every objection I could think of to whatever it was we were arguing about. All of the sudden he turned to me and said, “You would have made a good Olive Oyl.” (Remember, Popeye the Sailor’s loud-mouthed girlfriend?) That one I deserved and it stuck with me, as well.
If we want people to think we are wise, what we need to do is shut up and listen. We can fool a lot of people that way, right? Wrong! If we shut up and listen, we won’t just make others think we’re wise – we will actually be wise!
During trying circumstances and trouble when we do not know what to do, we wish for wisdom – instant wisdom. “God, help me to know what to do!” we might be crying on the inside. Wouldn’t it be great if we could instantly tap into the wisdom of God in any situation? Guess what. We can! The power is in our silence.
Just look at the wisdom of silence described in these other proverbs:
- The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. Proverbs 10:8
- Wise women store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin. Proverbs 10:14
- When words are many, sin is not absent, but she who holds her tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19
- A person who lacks judgment derides her neighbor, but a woman of understanding holds her tongue. Proverbs 11:12
- A prudent woman keeps her knowledge to herself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly. Proverbs 12:23
- She who guards her lips guards her life, but she who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3
When we don’t know what to say or do, just be quiet. When we’re distraught, when we’re angry, when we feel betrayed, when we’ve been cheated, when we’re stressed out, when we feel awkward, when someone is yelling at us – whatever the situation – the wisest thing we can do is be quiet. Repeat our plea to God in our mind, “God, help me to know what to do!” and then listen with our mind and heart.
We have all reflected on a quarrel we had and thought to ourselves, “I wish I had said …” The brilliant retorts always seem to come to us just after the crisis is over. Why is that? Could that mental block in the heat of the argument be God’s hand over our mouth? Is God protecting us from foolish impulses? What would have been the net result of blurting out a dead-on, hurtful comeback before we walked out the door? Would the person we had the conflict with think more highly of us? Would that cutting remark have improved our situation or brought us closer to a resolution with that person?
Thank God for the times we can’t think of that quick comeback. And even when we can, let’s pray we have the instant wisdom to keep our mouths shut.
Hold this thought: Better to keep quiet.