Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, Proverbs 15:16-33, 1 Timothy 1:18—2:15, Matthew 12:33-42
The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
The ear that heeds wholesome admonition will lodge among the wise.
Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.
– Proverbs 15:28, 31, 32
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of pithy sayings, instructions, and poems from several sources. Chapters 10 through 22 are attributed to Solomon, but he probably did not author them directly. Proverbs contains many themes, and one of the most prominent is wisdom.
A lot of this wisdom centers on the idea that, frankly speaking, we should know when to keep our mouths shut.
In our culture, most conversations pretend to be exchanges of ideas, but we generally lack tolerance for the silence necessary to thoughtfully reflect on what someone is saying to us. Instead we fill “awkward” silences by speaking whatever comes to mind first. Often we are mentally formulating our response before the other person finishes talking. And too often our default response mode is rebuttal rather than reflection. This is especially true when the discussion is about a disagreement, and we are more concerned with making our case – with winning the argument – than considering what the other person might have to add to our understanding. Spirited debate can be invigorating, even fun, but how often are we listening to respond, rather than listening to learn?
When we receive constructive criticism, we don’t have to immediately reply with a defense; we can take time to mull it over. When someone is experiencing grief or pain, we don’t have to offer cliched sentiments because we feel we have to say something comforting; we can simply be with that person. When someone is telling us about their problems we don’t have to offer unsolicited solutions; we can support them better with open ears and open arms. In these situations and many more, taking time to think will improve what we have to say, or show us we needn’t say anything.
Listening without feeling a need to respond every time will make us better friends, better parents, better co-workers, and better followers of Christ. Don’t be afraid of silence; that’s when we can hear God speak.
Comfort: Being slow to respond is often a sign of depth, not ignorance.
Challenge: For the remainder of the week, whenever possible, count to five before responding – or thinking about responding – to questions, news, etc. Note how these pauses affect the conversations.
Prayer: Loving God, teach me to listen for you in the silence. Amen.
Discussion: In what situations do you find it difficult to hold your tongue, even when you know better than to speak?
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