by Mike Zachary
We often overlook one of the most practical tools in developing human relationships because it goes against our nature. Here is the simple idea: just because you disagree with someone, you do not have to tell him.
Let’s consider a few scenarios. If you are a school teacher and a student says, “Buffalo Bill was the first president of the United States,” you might need to tactfully explain to the student that it was actually George Washington who was the first president of the United States.
But if you are having a casual conversation with a friend who says, “I think that we need another president like Buffalo Bill,” you may just want to ask, “Why do you think that?” After all, your friend isn’t your student. You’re not going to turn in a quiz grade to the office. You’re not going to issue a report card. Even though you recognize the error, it is not always the better part of wisdom to point it out. In many cases, when you say, “Buffalo Bill wasn’t ever president of the United States,” your friend actually hears, “You are stupid, and I am smart.” As you might imagine, this is not an ideal way to grow a relationship.
Solomon demonstrated great wisdom when he shared this proverb:
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. Proverbs 29:11
As humans, we sometimes feel that we just cannot control our urge to correct people. Solomon also addressed this issue, saying,
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:28
Even in our silence, there must be discretion. If someone is given to slander, you probably have a duty to stand up for the person being attacked. If someone is teaching heresy to a new Christian, that needs to be stopped. But in the day-to-day situations that make up our lives, we often need to remember that silence is golden. We need to remember that we don’t need to tell everything we know.
While it seems simple to be silent, it is sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do. James 3:8 declares, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” As humans, we simply don’t have the power to control what we say; but when we yield to the Holy Spirit, He can empower us to do what we otherwise could not do. And when that happens, our relationships can grow and flourish.