I have said some stupid things in my life. Really stupid. And they were not all an attempt to get some out-of-my-league girl to go out with me. Usually they’d show up at funerals and weddings where I’m trying desperately to say something at the former and something witty at the latter. No, not everyone gets the humor of: “Doesn’t the bride look pregnant?”
And then there are the moments when I have had the opportunity to not give my opinion and pressed on undaunted. College was a good time to see me pull foot A out of mouth B and slink away to dorm room C. A perfectly made point that destroys another’s position upsets them and a lousy point that destroys my own credibility upsets me. Win, win.
Proverbs On the Tongue
The Bible has much to say about the danger of the tongue: A tightly woven warning exists in Proverbs 21:23: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”
That is wisdom and I think we tend to misread passages like this one. We tend to think of the troubles as coming from our evil motivations but I’ve had the worst of it when my intentions have been good. That’s usually when I’ve caused the most damage. On the other hand, silence tends to create trust.
Be Quiet & Build Trust
What is your experience in these things? For me the persons I tend to trust the most are those that simply listen to me. When I’m rambling or fussing or bragging, but not getting back anything but a warm countenance and blessed silence is transformative. That’s when the trust starts to build. Because someone who can do that without their own agenda immediately leapfrogs the rest of mankind who want to listen to you just long enough to get their chance to speak.
Trust is the goal if we want to truly love our neighbor as ourselves. Just listen, and empathize, and restrain from offering advice, as painful as that may be. There is a huge difference between simply speaking and being prepared to speak for we must always be prepared to “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
Shut Up & Love Your Neighbor
I think we all fall into the trap of thinking that it’s up to us to fix those around us. Especially if they have not been given the gift of saving faith. But it’s like being a clueless medic on the battlefield while a skilled surgeon is being kept at arm’s length.
“No, I’ve got this, I’ll just shove that femur back into place and slap a bandaid on top of it. See, this one is ‘ouchless.’”
We want to be listened to and understood. Loving our neighbor requires that we do this for others. The bond of friendship is forged in these moments of sharing, trust and . . . silence. And perhaps God will be pleased to use our silence and maybe, ultimately, a few words, in His operation on that person’s heart and life.