Last time, we looked at some of the "colors" of silence. We saw that silence can be healing or harmful, depending on the intent. Let's examine some more of the spectrum.
Silence is golden when used for protection. Words can be dangerous when wielded carelessly. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18). When we choose our words carefully, we can be a blessing to someone.
Silence, too, is a kindness when it restrains our sharp tongues from lashing out. "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" (Proverbs 29:11). We can also choose to use silence for our own protection. "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20, NKJV).
Silence is golden when it pays rich dividends in a godly life. "The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin" (Proverbs 13:3, NASB). "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech" (1 Peter 3:10). "Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" (source unknown). "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise" (Proverbs 10:19).
Silence often speaks more loudly than words. It is a tool of incredible control. When used in anger, it can be more denigrating than verbal insults. Pretending somebody doesn't exist is devastating. However, a period of silence, when properly controlled, can take the steam out of an angry confrontation as well. "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue" (Proverbs 17:27, 28).
"'Fools,' said I, 'You do not know, silence like a cancer grows.'" So sang Simon and Garfunkel. Angry silence has a way of increasing, because we are too proud to break it. The longer we stew, the harder it is to swallow our pride and work things out.
The silence of contentment speaks volumes. Writing about lovers, Rebecca Solnit says, "As a way of doing that something closest to doing nothing, strolling together allows them to bask in each other's presence, obliged neither to converse continually nor to do something so engaging as to prevent them from conversing." Strolling in a park, sitting watching the trains go by or standing in the emergency room together does not require words to express love and comfort.
As important as prayer is, silence before God is often advisable. "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). We will be held accountable for every rash vow, every word we speak. "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36, NKJV).
God speaks in both sound and silence. We have his Word forever written in the Scriptures, which act as both a sword and a scalpel. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). No matter which way it cuts, His Word reaches into the depths of our souls to achieve His purposes (Isaiah 55:11).
The Word of God, and those who proclaim it, are often feared and hated because of its sting. It produces two opposite reactions. Those with tender hearts receive healing when they hear the gospel: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). The hard-hearted are pierced with a sword: "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them" (Acts 5:33).
The least attractive color of silence is yellow. Yellow silence is cowardly silence. "When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself" (Ezekiel 3:18, 19). We are called to warn other sinners of their need for repentance and faith.
To expand on Part One's quote by King Solomon, there is "a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Yellow silence can tear, but golden silence can mend. What color is your silence?
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