As Christians, we aren’t called to be like everyone else.
We’re called to be like Christ, and His response always has been, always will be, one of love.
One way we can show love to another person is through our words.
In the Bible, we’re told the value of our words. We’re given examples of the importance of holding our tongue as well as how to use what we say to communicate with others.
Sometimes our silence is the most powerful voice we have.
There are times, often when we’re frustrated or angry, that we have many words we want to share with someone.
I think it’s wise to step back and examine why we want to have the conversation that we’re struggling to keep inside.
Could it be for selfish gain?
Could we possibly want the other person to know how they have made us feel?
If so, what good will come from breaking our silence?
When we’re told in Proverbs that our answer, not the response of someone else, can be the difference between anger or peace, how can we ever let our tongue control us?
After all, our reaction to others is always in our control. No, we cannot control them, but we definitely can control ourselves.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath,Proverbs 15:1 NIV
but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I certainly understand that there’s a time for pouring our hearts out. I definitely think open communication is important to maintain a good relationship. But sometimes our relationships aren’t exactly good.
Sometimes they’re fragile.
Sometimes our gentle answer, or maybe even not saying anything at all, is an opportunity to fix what is keeping us from enjoying the friendship we long for.
It sure isn’t easy to keep our words to ourselves when others have hurt us. Fortunately, we have been given the ultimate example to help us with this.
“He was oppressed and afflicted,Isaiah 53:7 NIV
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.”
Jesus is perfect.
Jesus willingly gave His very life for you and for me.
Jesus certainly did nothing to deserve what was done to Him. Yet the Bible so clearly tells us how He reacted, a reaction that puts my own to shame.
I struggle to hold my tongue when someone offends me, offenses that pale vastly in comparison to what Jesus endured.
I can’t imagine how Jesus “opened not His mouth” during His crucifixion.
He could have called down Heaven. He could have put every single person in their place. He could have, with one word, declared who He was.
But He didn’t. He chose silence. He knew what had to happen, understood the importance of the timing, and, perhaps most importantly, had a clear vision of the future outcome.
I wonder what would happen if we could see the impact of our words.
I wonder how we would change if we could look forward in time a bit, just enough to show us how our silence could have helped a situation.
I wonder how often our reaction has the power to heal or hurt a relationship, often without us even realizing it is happening at the time.
But we’re human.
And it’s hard to keep our mouths closed when our feelings are hurt.
It’s hard to not vent.
It’s hard to not, at the very least, let the other person taste a little of what they have given to us. I get it. I really do. But that doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of putting others before ourselves.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”Philippians 2:3 NIV
Maybe we need to examine our motives. Ouch! I know that’s a hard pill for me to personally swallow.
Once we have an understanding of what we really want, it might be easier to achieve our goal by talking less.
What is our ultimate goal when it comes to repairing a relationship?
Isn’t our love for the other person at the center of it all?
If we didn’t care about them, would their words or actions have the power to hurt us? If we care about them, we want what is best for them. It’s that simple.
Maybe we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Empathy is a powerful tool.
Could it be that we don’t know the whole story behind how we’re being treated?
Could their silence be kindness in disguise? After all, whether the other person uses words or silence, they are communicating with us.
Maybe we need to be patient. In time, there may come an opportunity for a conversation that will improve the relationship that has been pulling us down.
We may find that, in our silence, we can truly listen to the other person enough to hear their heart more than their words.
I think we need to offer our silent communication in the form of not reacting when our feelings are hurt.
They say that silence is golden. I think it can be when we hold our tongues, an act that will protect both ourselves and the person we are tempted to lash out at.
In our silence, we receive the gift of reflection, of listening to the other person, and of examining the whole situation rather than our feelings.
We have to move beyond how we feel, move to the place where we can see the whole picture. That vantage point usually is all it takes to remind us to put others before ourselves.
Our ultimate goal in all relationships has been modeled for us by Jesus.
Love should be the reason for every word we speak as well as every word we keep to ourselves.
It’s a matter of timing. May we be so in tune with the Lord and with our concern for others that we push our hurt feelings to the side.
After all, our feelings will lie to us time and time again. Love never will.