Wise Silence

Often, remarks that leap into our minds don’t meet the guidelines of Wise Speech, and the best way to practice with Wise Speech is to say nothing.  It can be really hard.  It takes self-restraint, patience, and wisdom.  It’s a little easier if we understand why silence is the wisest course in such a situation.

The elements of Wise Speech prescribe that whatever we say should be: 1) true, 2) kind, 3) helpful and 4) appropriate.  All these elements need some explanation.  Truth means it’s accurate, based on observable facts.  Kind means it flows from a respectful and loving motive.  Helpful means it’s really going to do some good for others.  And it’s appropriate if it is timed and communicated in a way that those who receive the message can understand its intended meaning.

Lately I’ve been in situations where I really wanted to help people, but Wise Speech kept me silent.  It was truly a life-or-death matter involving a large family of people with their own, varied ways of thinking.  I knew a lot about what was going on, and oh, did I ever want to share my knowledge.  It would have been true, but it didn’t meet the other criteria of Wise Speech.

I had mixed motives, so it wasn’t  purely coming from kindness.  I wanted to fix things as quickly as possible to avoid stress – at least, my own.   But speeding up the group’s decisions and actions interfered with something so important for everyone: a chance to process their thoughts and feelings.  Because people need to do this kind of processing, it’s often just not the right time to say a lot of what we think is important. 

I set the intention to wait until I was asked for help.  There were only a few times when something seemed so urgent that I spoke without being sure the listeners could hear and use it as I meant it.  Fortunately, they usually could, but I was wrong at least once.  I hope those learning experiences will help me exercise Wise Silence when it’s needed in the future.

Having worked so hard to know when to speak, I can’t tell you it was easy or pleasant.  I can say that I have few regrets, and that’s worth a lot.  I’ve been told I was helpful, and that makes me very glad.  But the best result is that my relationship with all these people is now much closer, more loving and kind.  For me, that is the biggest reward of Wise Speech and Wise Silence.

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