Knowing when to speak and when to listen
August 13, 2008 6:23pm CST
My mother had a canister placed strategically on our kitchen counter on which the following words were written: "and I've often heard defended, little said is soonest mended". I read these words many times when I was growing up, so much so, that they are still embedded in my memory, some fifty years later. I have no idea where the quote came from, and the name of the author has probably been lost in antiquity, nevertheless the words had, as I'm sure my mother intended, a great affect on my life. I cannot say however, that I always followed its injunction to the letter, indeed far from it, but it certainly made me more aware of the potency of words. The apostle James, in a letter to the early Christians wrote, "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; .. for every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and have been tamed by mankind: but the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison". ( James 3: 6-7) Surly such words should make us all think before we speak, but for many of us the words fall by the wayside. There is of course, a time to speak - but also a time to keep silent. Discerning between the two is often one of our greatest challenges. Many examples can be given for a time when words are best left unsaid. We have all heard the saying, "if you can`t say something good about a person, don`t say anything". This would most assuredly would apply when we are tempted to pass along some piece of juicy gossip. Another time when it is best to `hold our tongue`, is when we are angry, for it is then that the unkindest barbs are let loose. On the lighter side, it may not be a good idea to refer to your wife as `plump`, even if you mean it in a `pleasing` way. A number of years ago, a young man, who was also a good friend of the family, lost his brother in a motorcycle accident. The two had been very close and I knew it was devastating for him. A couple of days after the funeral, he stopped by for a visit. We chatted for a few moments, and I was looking for some words of consolation, when suddenly the realization hit me, that he had been listening to others for almost a week now, and what he most needed was to get things out of his system. My words, my advice was not needed now, I had to become the quiet one, the one who listens. My young friend had planned to stay but a few minutes, but as the words came tumbling out, he seemed to lose all tract of time. For more than two hours I listened as he talked of his brother, of their childhood antics, the humorous stories, the sad times, we laughed together, we cried together. Eventually he arose to go home, but a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, and I had learned a valuable lesson - there is more than one way to be a good conversationalist.
14 Aug 08
Hi Pose123! Those are wonderful words that we all hope we could really discern and instill completely in our life. I grew up with parents who always tell us to "think before we speak" and my mother will always tells us that our tongues can kill the spirits of people when we speak ill of them. At first I really don't understand that but as I grew up I did understand what she meant. The tongue is like a two edge sword that can kill anybody's spirit and reputation. I grew up molded more to be a listener and not a talker, that is why I am a boring person in some ways. haha..I do not indulge in gossips that is why many people don't like talking to me because I am not the kind of person who will be excited on gossips and it will show in my face. I will listen to anyone who wants to pour her heart out and I won't tell anyone about the conversation but if they tell me about bad things about other people or anything that will ruin anyone, I won't have the time to listen and will stop anyone from saying more. That is why, I have heard so many things being told about me that I am snotty and rude. I am sad and sorry that they think that way about me but I am not sad and sorry for the way I am. However, I do am guilty of losing my temper and saying hurtful words when I am angry. It does not happen most of the time, it is very rare that I do and it is only when a person provoke me endlessly and wouldn't stop even if I ask her to please stop. I speak words that can really hurt but just the same I carry the pain of hurting that person in my heart. And finally, I do agree with you that there is a time to be silent and just listen because listening is also very important to achieve good communication. Take care always..God Bless!
• United States
14 Aug 08
Yes, sometimes we need to talk ,but sometimes is best to be quiet and to learn how to listen or just simply talk about positive stuff which is good for our souls. When we spend time with our love ones ,we should concentrate more on having a great time with them instead of always giving our opinion or impose our way of thinking on them.
14 Aug 08
Hi Pose, Wise advice from a wise person…something that I should remember time and again but never do. Don’t know when ‘maturity’ will catch up with me, but I badly need to hold my tongue. We have a saying ‘words like arrows, once let go from the quiver, nothing can bring them back’. There are so many things on which God has been kind to me Pose and people are one of them. I have a very short temper and have used such unkind words that just thinking of them makes me want to die in shame and remorse. But they have all accepted me back into their loving fold and I carry on with my vile tongue. But I am trying, trying, trying and have succeeded to some extent.