Fifty-two Weeks of Wisdom

A Wise Person Knows When to Shut Up

Pray

O Lord,
Open my eyes to see where you would lead me.
Awaken my ears that I would hear your voice guiding me.
Inspire my mind that I may comprehend your love for me.
Soften my heart that I would offer grace to those I meet.
Watch my feet that I would tread upon your kingdom paths.
Guard my heart from selfishness that I would give freely.
Inspire my words that I may speak of hope and healing.
O Lord, I follow you.
Amen.

Source: Lords Prayer Words

Read

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28 ESV)

Reflect

This morning  a scene played out in my minivan that is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

I had loaded all three children in, all were buckled and ready to go, and I ran back to the house to get my purse and our school bag. As I came back outside and made my way to the minivan, I could hear shouting coming from inside the vehicle. One child was singing at the top of her lungs while another child repeatedly screamed, “Please stop singing! Please stop singing! Please stop singing!”

I sighed as I heaved the heavy bags into the passenger side and then climbed into the driver’s seat. Do I want to try again to teach my child that there is tremendous power in knowing when to shut up?

I decided I did. I did want to try again.

So a conversation we have had many, many times was repeated.

“Hey buddy, guess what? If you stop shouting, ‘Please stop singing,’ I can almost guarantee you that she will stop singing. She’s continuing to sing loudly like that because she loves to provoke you. Her goal is to irritate you and get a reaction. If you ignore her, if you sit back quietly and stop engaging, I promise she will stop. But as long as you keep reacting, she’s feeling powerful. She feels like she’s in control—because right now, she is! One of the best lessons you could ever learn in life is that sometimes the wisest thing you can do, and most powerful thing you can do, is to shut your mouth.”

When I was done, my son looked at me with gratitude in his eyes, stopped shouting at his sister, and a new spirit of peace descended on my vehicle. Finally, the lesson was learned!

Just kidding

It will be years before any of my children will figure out the power of knowing when to stop talking. I know adults who are five times their age who still haven’t fully learned that lesson (myself among them!) In fact, this truth is one of the reasons I have felt led to pursue growing in wisdom this year. I want to be wise with my words—and sometimes, that means exercising the wisdom of no words.

Until then, I will keep doing my part. I will keep massaging the truth of scripture, that

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28 ESV)

Sometimes the wisest thing a person can do is simply stop talking.

Apply

Children are not the only ones who need this truth to be hammered in over and over. It’s true for preachers, parents, and politicians, too. In fact, there is a parenting strategy called “Planned Ignoring” that  I learned from my parenting coach way back when we first got our kids. “Planned ignoring is an intervention strategy that has been effectively used to reduce inappropriate behaviors. Planned ignoring occurs when an adult ignores minor irritants or silliness in a child.” Planned ignoring works not just with children but with anyone who is behaving in a childish manner. There is tremendous power in silence in the face of provocation. May we learn this lesson well!

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