A Time to Keep Silence, and a Time to Speak

As you may know, my word for 2021 is SPEAK, and in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of hateful speech floating around these days. However, hateful speech is something I really want to avoid both from others and from my own mouth. This is all about controlling what I can (my own words and reactions) and letting go of those things I can’t control (other people’s words and reactions).

Having said that, it’s important for me to remember that controlling what I say is not the same as being silent. As the wise writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” In many situations silence is not an option. “Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.”– Ginetta Sagan.

Without knowing it, I’ve been preparing my heart and mind for this moment for the whole of last year, as I prayed Proverbs 2 throughout the year. You can read the whole thing, but the key part I’m focusing on is “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding… For the Lord grants wisdom.” When I speak, I want to speak words of wisdom, so I guess I’ll be praying this proverb for another year!

Here’s my plan of action as I move out of my comfort zone and prepare to speak:

  1. Ask God to “search my heart, to test me and know my anxious thoughts, to point out any offensive way in me, and to point me in the right direction” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. Ask God to “create in me a new, clean heart, filled with clean thoughts and right desires” (Psalm 51:10).
  3. Realize that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). If that which my mouth wants to speak is ugly, then I need to first address what’s in my heart and deal with it.
  4. Understand that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:17, 20), then ask myself if my words bear good fruit. This is a hard one to judge because sometimes the necessary words spawn anger by those who don’t want to hear them. Jesus is a good example of that, so it would behoove me to also follow his example of response and action.
  5. Ask for all of the above with confidence. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). But—be careful what I ask for!
  6. Keep as a daily prayer this one offered up by David: “[God], You deserve honesty from the heart; yes, utter sincerity and truthfulness. Oh, give me this wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).
  7. And finally, remember these encouraging words from the apostle Paul to the church at Ephesians, as it relates to how they were to treat each other: “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.” That doesn’t mean to be a doormat or timid, but it does teach me the right attitude to have as I speak against injustice and voice other uncomfortable truths.

Is it time for you to speak up against the injustices you see in this world? If you feel called to do so, I hope these verses will help you, too. If you are uncertain, I would recommend the book, The Time is Now, by Joan Chittister (or really, any of her books). Here’s a bit from the blurb on the inside cover: “A beloved nun and social activist offers a soul-stirring guide for all who feel disillusioned and dissatisfied with the power-hungry institutions and systems of this world.”