“Where words are many, sin is not absent.”
CAN YOU RELATE WITH the frustration in reflection of having heard yourself exaggerate something to make it sound more appealing or sensational? Why do we do this? Children do it all the time. Adults do it to. Is it because we are trying to gain more acceptance? Is it because we need the attention? Is it because we have unmet needs within? The reality however is our credibility (and the truth) suffers when we fall for the telling of a half-truth.
The proverb quoted is pointing directly at the effects of talking too much-if we talk too much we’re more likely to lie. We need to understand that even though lies hurt others, they also hurt ourselves. We suffer the inevitable loss of credibility-if it actually counts among your peer group. The truth is untruths are sometimes cherished by some groups; though they’re not the target of this discussion. This advice is targeted at those who want, and see the need, to speak more truth.
Anyone serious about becoming wise must contend that speaking too much is a trap, and that attaining credibility and keeping it are paramount. I once read that for every sixty things we say, one is untruth-a lie, an omission or exaggeration-meaning we inevitably lie at some point or other. The same writer (Bill Hybels) suggested it was a good idea to limit conversations to fifty-nine or fewer.
The idea is if you want to be more honest and have, as a result, more integrity, and better credibility, you simply need to say less. We need to be more guarded in what we say; more self-controlled; more discreet. I don’t know about you, but hearing speech that is indiscreet and careless sort of angers me from within, because I see a lack of care in the speaker-lack of care is a lack of love.
Anyone who considers themselves a spiritual being shouldn’t act carelessly; it goes against the grain of spirituality. If you want to be more spiritual and find it hard to limit or control your speech, what should you do?
If you feel susceptible to this sort of weakness, of talking too much and lacking the self-control to limit your speech, perhaps you need to study the principles of prudence and discretion? I have defined prudence simply as, “Control of what enters or leaves the mouth.” (Whilst this might be an overly simplistic definition, it works for me.) Would it be true, that for the many who lack the control over their words, there are the same people who lack control over what and how much they eat? I wonder if there’d be any correlation. Prudence is self-control; it is wise living.
Proverbs also tell us further effects of prudence behaviour. The prudent person, overlooks an insult, keeps their knowledge to themselves, acts out of knowledge (which are established facts), gives thought to their ways (and steps), is crowned with knowledge, takes refuge in the sight of danger, keeps quiet in times of trouble, and heeds correction.
The final part of the proverb quoted above says, “…but he [or she] who holds his tongue is wise.” There are many positive effects of speaking less and speaking only the truth. The biggest and most positive effect is you will become wiser and more discerning for it. People will trust you more and you will gain more honour without even having to think about it, which is the way it should be.
And when you think about it, speaking less brings more peace and tranquillity to your soul as there’s less pressure on you to please others. We don’t need to please others to make ourselves feel better within; only please them to love them.
Reference: Hybels, B., Making Life Work-Putting God’s Wisdom Into Action (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1998), p. 88f.
© Steve J. Wickham, 2007.