For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; (Ecc. 3: 1, 7 ESV)
There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. I, however, often mix the times up. From my youth, I have known of my tendency to speak before thinking. I memorized James 1:19 during my teenage years and quoted it often to myself.
James 1: 19 ESV … let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
By God’s grace, my speech has slowed down, and I listen better than I did as a youth. Yet, I’ve noticed that my tendency to choose silence at inappropriate times has increased of late. It took the wounding silence of a friend with me to awaken me to the inappropriate silence I had shown another.
A committed friend with whom I had shared many intimate conversations stopped replying to my emails, leaving me hanging as we were scheduling our next time together. Her silence was deeply wounding. But it opened my eyes to my inappropriate silence with my other friend who had called and left a voice mail for me months ago. I just left her hanging. I don’t know why I didn’t return the call. I just didn’t. I could analyze it here and give some reasons, but I won’t. Though I had reasons, they weren’t REASON ENOUGH. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. I had chosen silence when I should have chosen speech. Oh, Lord, please open my eyes to know which is which!
Silence has often wounded me more deeply than any other sound. It’s the sound of someone’s heart who is just not interested enough in me to even make an attempt. Many of us choose silence because we don’t know what to say, but it gets translated instead as “I don’t care about you” whether you mean it that way or not.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Remember that sometimes the loudest message you can communicate is said through nothing at all. Silence can be deafening. If you’ve been silent with someone, even appropriately silent, remember that Ecclesiastes speaks of it as a time, a season, that eventually gets replaced by the time to speak. Don’t choose it forever, because whatever you likely mean by your season of silence, the one on the other end of it hears it as a very loud voice of rejection.
Eph. 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
**If you struggle with speaking to a person of high emotion that turns every conversation into a conflict, here’s an interesting secular resource. This link hasn’t been showing up for some, so I’m reformatting it.