Sometimes Silence Is At The Core Of Wisdom

The verses for today’s meditation have two separate messages. Again, the central concept for consideration is that of wisdom. The first verse reveals wisdom, whereas the second, does not. Let us look at both individually.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit [who is discreet] is a man of understanding.” Those who have knowledge and understanding of the power of words, and who use them for their proper purposes, show both self-discipline of mind and a moral maturity. They are routinely wise in their speech and in their use of words. They know when to hold them, and how to use them properly. They do not babble, or speak frivolously. They do this because they honor truth and goodness above all. They know their responsibility toward the truth and toward others. They do not gossip, or manipulate language for their own purposes. When silence is the better choice in the moment, they remain silent. Why? Because they know both the power and the weakness of words.

There are times when silence is the very core of wisdom. The person who constrains his or her words knows that “mere” words are often the source of great suffering when used frivolously, thoughtlessly, or foolishly. We all remember the childhood chant, “Stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We can also remember that when we uttered that sing-song chant, it was usually because we were trying to cover the fact that we had truly been hurt by another’s words about us. The wise person, the person of knowledge and understanding, would constrain him or herself from speaking in any way that would cause harm to another.

Let us take a look at the second verse for today: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” The important part of the equation here is that words often provide a glimpse into the heart of the speaker. Fools are usually babblers, their words often pour out of them without constraint. If a fool were, by chance, to remain silent, keep his, or her lips closed, we would not be able to see their folly, and we might make the mistake of assuming that they are intelligent. The verse is a classic use of contradiction. It is only when a person speaks that we can see into their heart. In other words, silence in the case of a fool, reveals nothing, but silence. On the other hand, one who knows the power and the importance of words, willingly constrains his or her words when it is proper to do so. And the one who uses words in ways that honor truth, goodness, and beauty, reveals him or herself to be both intelligent and wise.

Lord, help us to think and to use our words wisely and intelligently. Give us the gift of prudent speech. When we speak, let our words reveal that our hearts are afire with love for you. Grace us with an abiding love of truth, goodness and beauty in our thoughts and in our words at all times. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.