a voice crying out in the postmodern wilderness

Know When to Shut Up

Know When to Shut Up

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak..." (James 1:19 ESV)

With the advent of social media, everyone has a soapbox. Everyone has a voice. This is a good thing, as it knocks down cultural walls and fosters dialogue - even if the dialogue is between two people on a screen many miles away from one another. It's a net gain, in other words.

But I think we're losing the art of silence.

In a person to person conversation, silence is palpable. It makes words hang in the air and breeds anticipation. And it provides time to think about the next word. Good orators use pauses - silence - to mark their points and to create intrigue.

There is a time to square your shoulders, look someone in the eye, and speak up. There is a time to boldly assert yourself. But if you won't shut up the rest of the time you'll just throw a rock into the raging river of your obnoxious presence. It's like a cousin of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

We recently lost a great man in my family. Uncle Bubba came up poor on a farm in Giddings, Texas during the Depression, the type of upbringing that forges strong men in the furnace of hardship. Uncle Bubba was the strong silent type, especially in his later years. When he was around, you'd know it - but you wouldn't often hear his voice.

When you did, you listened.

I remember this time in Rockport, Texas. We are on vacation with Uncle Bubba and others for a family reunion. We sat in an upper floor hotel room talking over drinks with the sliding door open to the salty breeze. You could hear kids playing the hotel pool below. Could you ever hear the kids playing in the pool. Man, those kids were loud.

One kid was especially loud. On and on he went. Uncle Bubba sat quietly in his chair, his baseball cap perched atop his head the way old-timers did it. We all talked but he just listened and enjoyed the company. He finally spoke up:

"Somebody hold that kid's head under water!"

We roared. Of course he was kidding. But when he broke the silence his words had impact. They meant something.

As children of God we carry a divine family name. Our word should mean something. Our words should mean something. So we should use them carefully. That is why we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. If you intend to hold true to your word(s), scattering words like seeds is foolish.

Whether online or in person, we must know when to shut up. When to just let our thoughts be our thoughts until words are warranted. And when you can use one word instead of two, opt for the one. 

Be quick to hear and slow to speak. Remember your family name.


Photo credit: Christian V. via Flickr

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