On Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, text messaging, and even face to face, we are faced with multiple opportunities to speak up or shut up. How do we know when to speak and when to be quiet? We have all experienced times that we did not keep our mouths shut and burned bridges. Times we stayed silent as decisions were made that harmed others. We carry these regrets. We can confess and learn from our mistakes, choosing to look forward, but we need to consider the question—when do we hold our tongues?
This is not an easy question to answer in the heat of the moment. It is far easier to look into the future and imagine a scenario or reflect on the past and see what we should have done. It is in the moment, staring at the blinking cursor on the screen, or all the people in the room, that we must be able to discern: speak up or keep quiet.
No pressure. The good news is that we can prepare our minds before the moment and to be ready to respond. Considering the results we hope for can help us discern whether to speak.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:1–2, 4
What are the results you hope for in your day? Do you want to bring healing or pain? Do you want to turn away wrath or stir up anger? Do you want to bring goodness and life or break someone’s spirit?
As we meditate and focus on healing, turning away anger, and bringing goodness and life, our mind and heart are then ready for that challenging conversation with the boss, the vulnerable discussion with a parent, or the painful situation with a spouse.
Not only does this prepare us for a spot we know we are entering, this prepares us for the circumstances that we do not anticipate. Those unexpected moments when someone uses harmful words in a meeting; when someone responds to us by cutting us down, when someone dismisses our feelings. We hold the power to make circumstances better or worse. With the power of the Spirit, what used to send us into a tailspin will roll off our backs. Our minds will be ready to respond with goodness, calm, and healing. This preparation of our minds is such a gift in the moment, not only to ourselves but those around us. We receive God’s goodness, peace, and joy and we then share it with others. A prepared mind leads to positive and wise speech.