“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:27,28
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19
There are times when our most powerful words are those we don’t speak.
Have you ever wished you could take back the words you’ve said? I certainly have! I often hear people make disparaging jokes about themselves, such as “I have a foot shaped mouth.” Many people look back with deep regret on words they’ve said. We can’t unsay our words. But the wisdom and good judgement to know when to speak and when to be quiet is available to us all, as Christians. It comes through asking God for wisdom, and by cultivating self control, which is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in us.
Ecclesiastes 3:7b tells us, there is “a time to be quiet and a time to speak.”
Timing is Everything
How many of us have both the wisdom and self control to know when to keep silent or speak, and to zip that lip when everything in us wants to do the opposite?
Here’s a thought: It’s not only negative, hurtful or harsh words that we need to learn when to speak or withhold. Queen Esther, in the Bible was a wise woman who understood the importance of well timed words.
As you probably know, King Xerxes had issued a decree, instigated by the evil Haman, to annihilate the entire Hebrew nation, not knowing of course, that Queen Esther was one of them.
Esther knew that she had to petition the king on her people’s behalf. But she also knew that timing was crucial! Esther prayed, fasted, waited.
Esther had the opportunity to make her request the first time the king extended his golden sceptre, inviting her to make her petition. But rather than blurting it all out, begging the king to be benevolent and spare her people, Esther sensed that the timing wasn’t right. So instead, she invited the king to dinner.
At the dinner party, Esther again held back her request. Wisdom told her the timing still wasn’t right. And so, she invited the king to dinner again. It was at this dinner party that Esther presented her appeal to King Xerxes. The timing was perfect. The people were spared and Haman was done away with. All because of Esther’s well timed words.
The lesson I learn from this, is that while our choice of words and how we use them, are very important, the timing is of equal importance – some of the most powerful moments in our lives will be those moments when we say nothing at all.