When is it wise to just shut up?

I like to talk, especially if I’m talking about a subject I love. Like writing. Or science fiction. Or anything BBC.

Talking is fun. Sharing stories is fun. Boy, have I got some whoppers too. I don’t like being in front of people, but for the sake of a good story, I’ll shove my introvertedness to the corner and let it go (no Frozen reference intended, but oh well…..).

But are there times when talking hurts more than it helps? Are there times when we just need to shut up, even if we know the answer?

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Proverbs 10:19.

Too much talk leads to sin.
    Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Sometimes the Bible is really blunt, and it makes me laugh. And then I get to thinking about what it’s talking about, and I stop laughing.

Have you ever been in that place? Where you cross the line from just shooting the breeze to saying too much? I’ve been there. And I’m pretty sure I’ve turned bright red.

But then, I’ve met people who say too much and don’t seem to care. They can talk-talk-talk away about a subject they don’t really understand, offering their opinions about it as though it’s fact just because they believe it. But when someone confronts them with facts, they don’t back down. Usually they just change the subject.

I like to be in the loop as much as the next person. I like to know what’s happening around me in the news, at my office, in my family as much as anyone. But I don’t know everything. And talking about it like I do isn’t helpful. It’s hurtful, because I end up making assumptions about people that may or may not be true.

I work in marketing. I’m not a very good marketing person, but I know how to turn a phrase. And one thing I had to learn very quickly was negative perceptions can damage a brand irreparably.  It doesn’t matter if you have the best product on the market, if your ads are unprofessional or if your sales people are unprofessional, people will think your product is sub-par.

It works the same way in groups of people. You may know a person who is awesome, full of compassion and integrity and love. But all it takes is someone else spreading rumors behind his or her back to turn that earned reputation on its head. I wish it weren’t that easy to do, but it is.

It’s human nature to believe the worst about each other. That’s one of the reasons why 1 Corinthians 13 is so important–talking about how the love that comes from the Spirit always thinks the best about each other. Thinking the best about each other, speaking well of each other, doesn’t come naturally to us.

It’s human nature to tear down. It’s human nature to manipulate and gossip.  It’s human nature to want to be at the center of controversies. But if you belong to Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature any longer. That doesn’t mean your human nature shuts off. No, that means it has to shout louder to get your attention, but if you belong to Christ, you have another option. You don’t have to stick to your human nature. You can do what Jesus would have done.

Instead of spreading hearsay or your own assumptions, you can speak truthfully. Or not at all. Think about what you say before you say it. Words are tools–powerful creations that can help or hurt, so use them wisely.  Use them sparingly.

I’ve been in that place before where I’ve said too much and I’ve had to take responsibility for it. It’s not fun. And it takes time to rebuild trust after hurting people with what I’ve said.

So don’t even go there. If you’re prone to talking too much, be vigilant about it. Maybe you think you’re doing everybody a favor by bestowing your wisdom, and if you really are sharing your story with humility and love, then awesome. But even then, there’s a time and a place for it. If you feel God telling you to share, do it.

But if you’re just trying to get attention, if you’re just wanting a moment of spotlight, or if you’re trying to start something? Take it from someone who’s been there and done that, have the wisdom to keep your mouth shut.

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