As i have been looking at some aspects of a person’s life that i see as defining them as being a person of good character, the last two posts i did focused on Living out the Words you Speak and Speaking out the Words you Live. I see both of those as powerful indicators of the character you have as a person and both areas that are good to focus on or invite the accountability of others into if you are trying to become a better person.
But a third related aspect comes to mind when it comes to speaking, and that is being able to realise the times and moments when you shouldn’t. Sometimes offering someone the gift of silence can be the very best thing you can do.
Sometimes all that people need is your presence, to know that you showed up and are there for them and if they need to talk and get something off their chest or if they need to share their emotions [be it grief or anger or confusion or despair] that you are there to give them the opportunity to do just that. You aren’t going to challenge or rebuke or give answers or make light of whatever it is they are going through, but you are going to be a someone who cares enough to be around.
i do think, however, that this is not a blanket rule and so it requires a certain amount of wisdom and often a large amount of relationship. Because some people really do want the words in some of the same situations and so this requires a certain amount of knowing to be able to pick the moments when you should speak and when you should listen and also when you should just be.
BE SURE TO TASTE YOUR WORDS BEFORE YOU SPIT THEM OUT
I used this quote with the last piece in terms of advising us when we need to speak what we live. But they apply equally well here. Sometimes you will take a moment to taste the words you are about to spit out and realise that they taste bitter or foul and so to be a person of good character in that moment is to hold them back, or swallow them and keep the bad taste to yourself.
Sometimes someone realises that they are jerk and don’t need yet another person confirming it to them.
Sometimes someone is painfully aware they have made a mistake and does not need your enthusiastic announcing of the fact.
Sometimes, just keep them to yourself.
Proverbs 18.21 21 The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Or ye olde, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ [which doesn’t necessarily apply always, because sometimes we do need to speak out against injustice and cruelty and more, but it is a good default go-to setting for those times when we are not sure].
A last point to consider is that we live in a world of noise and activity and instant gratification and speed. I believe it can be so helpful and healing for a person to be able to step away from that for a moment, for an hour, for a day or even longer, and embrace the silence. To not need the noise/activity/connection. To be able to switch off and unplug and step away and be still and know and meditate and remember and consider and dream…
Let Silence be something you carry around with you, and bring out when necessary and helpful, both for yourself and for others.