The Fool Speaks
“A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.” (Prov. 14:3) Having no voice; It’s like rubbing the dusty windows of my soul to look in at the pride the lurks inside. In my first blog about silence, I asked what words were worth speaking if you could only speak six sentences an hour. I explained my theory on what words were worthy, but now I’m seeing what words lurk inside me. My strongest urges to speak are a commentary on my inner world.
I do feel the urge to speak uplifting words to others, but some of my strongest urges are to conjure perceptions into the world. You see, voices are a means of making inner desires a reality. Just as God’s breath spoke everything into being, so our words shape the world around us. We have the ability to craft ideas in the minds of others. We can build people up or tear them down with words. We can persuade others to make decisions. Words are not to be trifled with. The book of James tries to wake us up to the potency of words:
If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6)
Even though I’ve always believed this passage, I’ve never felt the significance of it until I couldn’t speak. The only trouble with speech is that it is so commonplace. We forget the potency of words. We meander around with hot sparks flying from our lips among the dry grasses of other people’s lives. My daily experience is more like a ship without a rudder or a horse without a bit these days. I’m not saying the world around me needs my guidance; I’m saying the world around me doesn’t fit my fancy as often when I can’t speak. That is frustrating because I like to get my way. I’m so used to being able to exert my ideas upon the world. Without speech, I have less influence upon everything. Guess what; the world hasn’t fallen apart without my words yet. Can you believe it?
I’ve been using an app on my phone to speak. The app allows me to type in my thoughts and then click a button that speaks the phrase through the voice of Siri. For the first few days of my silence, I found that the pace of the conversations around me was too fast to use the app effectively. By the time I typed in my contribution to the conversation the subject changed or the context of the conversation had shifted so far that my phrase was irrelevant. I found myself typing ferociously only to delete what I was going to say because it would no longer make sense. What I’ve noticed is that I always have something to say. I don’t care if you are talking about asparagus, I would have a perspective, a joke, or an idea about the subject that I think the rest of the world should know. I’ve stopped trying to interject my thoughts into everything. I’ve found that conversations seem to survive without my vast wisdom,
So why do I always have something to say? Much of my speaking is designed to shape people’s perceptions of me. As a highly verbal person, much of the time I speak is intended to manage people’s reactions to me. I want people to think of me as funny, wise, humble, the expert, or just down right likable. That is where I see my pride most clearly. I speak to be noticed.
There is this insightful passage in Luke that clarifies what is going on here. It says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).” Many times the overflow of my heart is pride. I think that I need to be heard to be valuable. I’ll let you know when I stop thinking that because it’s a hard lesson to learn.
Let me propose a better way of using words. This proposal is as much to me as it is to anyone else. What if I were to spend more of my words out of a motive to deflect rather than absorb attention? Oh, how beautiful that would be. How much more glory could I reflect to God if I wasn’t trying to sneak a little glory for myself every time I speak? Home much more loving I could be if I weren’t always trying to manipulate a person into thinking I am amazing and instead listen to them or encourage them? How much more could I accomplish as a leader if my goal was to advance the vision rather then steal the stage?