Things left unsaid
A majority of people would probably say that they have far more regrets over things they said, than things they didn’t say. A knowledgeable person learns how to spare his or her words. A passage in Proverbs goes further to say that even the foolish can be counted wise when they refrain from speaking at the wrong moment (Proverbs 17:27-28). It is the one most apt to listen that will also be the one most apt to learn.
Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. However, the person of true understanding always remains teachable. Being teachable usually involves a greater degree of silence than it does being verbose or even slightly vocal. A most impressive description regarding someone’s ability to remain silent is given by English educator and philosopher John Locke (1632 to 1704). He describes the demeanor of one of his mentors, Dr. Edward Pococke (1604 to 1691). Locke describes Dr. Pococke as an individual that spoke at just the right moment, which always involves the true benefit of others and that he also had the silence of a learner while at the same time the knowledge of a master. Locke said Dr. Pococke never had the air of dispute, correction or opposition to another person.
The follower of Christ is never called to simply speak the truth. He or she is to speak the truth in love and the capability to do so is a real sign of maturity (Ephesians 4:15). This means that our words will have to be considered carefully, taking the other person’s circumstances as much into account as possible. Be hesitant to talk about yourself, especially if it makes you look better than others; no one is going to benefit from that and no one will be impressed by it. The use of panegyric (bragging) verbiage will only cause people to be reluctant to spend time with you and possibly cause envy; it will never cause them to admire you.
Confidence in your God given abilities is a desirable quality, but we have to be careful that we don’t become proud or boastful or start to feel that we are deserving of greater recognition. Go about your business in quietness and humility. All the brilliance in the world isn’t worth very much if it isn’t encouraging the people around us.
Excellence is achieved when we become proficient in practical, everyday matters. Everything that God gives us or reveals to us is supposed to be fully deployed in life for the benefit of better living. It isn’t just given to us for the knowing of it, but for the doing of it. Each small task well done honors God and is undoubtedly training us for greater challenges and greater service.
Excellence also lies in staying with the fundamentals of what is known. This is true in any endeavor. Most people that might be called “experts” are so because they have become very good at the fundamentals of their craft. If one is faithful in what is known, that which is not known will soon be made clear. Seek excellence and you’ll be in the right place at the right time to make the most amount of difference with the greatest number of people.
Excellence and the ability to be reserved in what one says tend to go together. However, that does not suggest that being silent is always best. Edgar Allen Poe said, “The true genius shudders at incompleteness and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.” It is the person of excellence that chooses the moment for speaking. Seek to find practical application in what is known and always consider the practical to be that which helps other people. It may be that the most practical aspect of true knowledge and wisdom is knowing when to speak and when not to. “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit,” (Proverbs 17:27).
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska. He is also a board member with Love INC of Eagle River. (www.universityofcss.org)