Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. – Proverbs 17v28
‘Silence is golden’ is an old saying. Some say it goes back to ancient Egypt. The principle itself goes back to at least the time of Solomon. It is a saying that just makes sense. Since I like to find out where words and sayings come from I googled this one this morning and here is what I came up with at phrases.org.uk.
Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:
"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting. Nay, in thy own mean perplexities, do thou thyself but hold thy tongue for one day: on the morrow, how much clearer are thy purposes and duties; what wreck and rubbish have those mute workmen within thee swept away, when intrusive noises were shut out! Speech is too often not, as the Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought; but of quite stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity."
Here we have one of those principles I could apply much more often. I have mentioned here before that I like to talk and I REALLY like to express my opinion. That desire has caused more trouble than I like to think about.
Sure, speech may be necessary. As mentioned above speech is silver. It is good, it is valuable, and it has its place.
However, silence is a golden virtue. Solomon writes that even a fool is considered wise and perceptive when he keeps his mouth shut.
I particularly like this quote from the section above – ‘Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting.’
Wise men know when to speak, but they especially know when to shut up. Help me to learn to know when to do which. Help me to keep my mouth shut when in doubt.