Devotional: May 21, 2021
12 Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent. 13 A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.
Proverbs 11: 12-13 NRSV
Sometimes the words we choose can betray us. They reveal our character, whether good or bad. Here, the writer of Proverbs contrasts good behavior with bad behavior. The author puts the way of wisdom side-by-side with the foolish approach to life. These contrasting phrases are a common form or pattern within this simple, pithy book of the bible.
The first stark contrast begins with those who belittle, or make fun of other people. As the writer knows, there are some people who think nothing of dropping insults, and nit-picking other people to death. Yet in the end, such people become tiresome. Their negative behavior rarely wins them friends. It actually makes no sense, and they end up looking small, desperate, and petty.
Meanwhile, intelligent people understand the necessity to keep quiet. This doesn’t mean that they fail to notice the shortcomings or foolish aspects of others. It means that they are wise enough and kind enough to remain silent. Not only is it wise and kind, but it is also polite. They end up leaving the other person with their dignity. The person who keeps silent chooses to overlook the other’s mishaps, in order to show them respect. The wise model may have a better impact on human relationships.
The second contrast is not only about words: it is also about integrity. A gossip can be untrustworthy. They leak information, including sensitive information, which can end up hurting others. When you share anything with a known gossip, you risk giving that person a megaphone for the whole world to hear your secrets. The expression, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”, is quite appropriate in such situations. When you are aware of another’s weakness or inability to keep silent, be wise in what you share with that person.
When someone takes you into their confidence, and shares sensitive information, they are trusting you. Trust is a valuable commodity in all human relationships, Broken trust can result in a broken relationship, or at least one that is not as strong as it was before. When you are trustworthy, you are truly a friend who can be counted upon.
In life, there may be times when a burden is too heavy to carry alone. Sharing something with another can give us a sense of relief and comfort. Knowing that you are being cared for, prayed for, and encouraged is a wonderful and sometimes necessary thing. This is especially true when the storms of life come over you. Yet having our painful secrets broadcast widely, without our permission, will most likely add additional pain to our suffering.
Sharing a wonderful secret can also be a privilege. Joyful events which are not yet public make for fun and cherished moments. I remember when one of my former youth group members explained that when he was in the military, they were given advance notice of Operation Desert Storm. It was only a few hours before news reports came out, but hearing the news before the general public made one young private feel very special.
Sometimes, we are entrusted with information which others will know soon, but not quite yet. When we break that trust by blabbing to others, we show that we selfishly want to build ourselves up as being “in the know.” We also remove the joy others want to experience by sharing their own news themselves. Instead, we ought to keep confidences, show respect, and allow others to share their joy.
The wise and the intelligent share less information. In the end, they are more respected. It is almost as if their behavior proves the old adage: “Better to stay silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak, and remove all doubt!”
Sometimes, God calls upon us to speak. Other times, He asks us to keep silent. These verses from Proverbs remind us that sometimes saying LESS is really saying MORE. The next time you are presented with the option to be silent, or to share, think about this proverb.
Do you want to be the sensible and intelligent person, or the one who is untrustworthy?
I hope the choice is obvious to all of us. May we heed this important advice and consider it carefully when presented with sensitive information. Remember, our words reveal who we truly are: they are windows into what is on our mind, and in our hearts. Sometimes, speaking less allows us to love more… and Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, as yourself.”
I thank You for these words, which direct me to follow the path of wisdom, leading a life which is comforting to others. Forgive me when I fail to follow Your wise words. Help me to be that person whom others want to trust. May my words and my heart be in line with what You have freely offered to me. I pray this prayer in Your holy name. Amen.