When to speak and when to keep quiet?

I was told at a young age that there were two subjects best to avoid in polite society: religion and politics. Later I got religion and my early mentors encouraged me to talk about religion (since the message I had was so important I would be doing a disservice not talking about it). But as for politics, despite those same mentors being conservative leaning, their counsel was to remain silent.

I say this because I have come a long way since then and those who read my blogs and my social media musings will know I talk about religion and politics a great deal because I think I have something important to say and given me current status in life as an old retiree on my way out who unlike some have little to lose by speaking I feel compelled to do so knowing the truth sets one free and often feeling incensed that damaging falsehoods are being propagated that need countering, and if I don’t do so, who will?

I am continually reminded of one of my favourite passages in the Bible about there being a time for everything and of a mantra I decided should define when to speak: is it true, is it necessary and is it kind? I sometimes fail on one of more of these points but the trick is to recognize when that happens and make amends. I was recently reminded that nice Christian conservative leaning types, unlike their nemesis, tend not to speak out even when bad things are happening. I think they assume those pushing bad things are also nice people, whereas the world is made up of fools, villians and good guys or at least mixtures of such. These lead people down the path of error, evil and slavery. When as I have done recently read books like Dark Agenda (reviewed here) and Righteous Indignation (reviewed here) I can see the consequences and missed opportunities of taking such a passive approach. And I am brought back to the all important question: knowing when to speak and when to be quiet?

I write in this vein as I know many good people who keep quiet when they should speak out so not to offend or speak out when they should keep quiet and so offend. While it is true I have been influenced by one Donald J Trump who does not back off when it comes to calling out wrong doers in his own inimitable way, returning punches with interest, unlike many of his conservative leaning predecessors, when he encounters it, my chief mentor has to be Jesus Christ. He often spoke out against the religious folk of his day for their hypocrisy and while he made it very clear to the secular powers when they did wrong, often he said little, recognising we should honour them unless it meant dishonouring God, but more importantly his words were often designed to encourage others. And when it came to actions, these invariably spoke louder than words.

I like to think that those who might take offence in things I say will bear these points in mind. Sadly, often our well-intended words can be misinterpreted, sometimes deliberately, as Kipling noted: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” but it is back to the good book and knowing when to speak and when not to speak and when we do so may our words be gracious, seasoned with salt, because that will breath life into our hearers and let us take on board the warnings of the Bible of the consequences on not taming our tongues. But also, if a follower of Jesus, it is important to remember we are but unprofitable servants and he is the one in charge and in control, who we serve.


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