Do you ever get fired up? The hype around the latest political or ethical faux pas leaves you scrambling to defend a hot-button issue, or to change someone’s mind?
I do. I may seem sweet, but anyone who has ever lived with me knows that when I get mad, I get MAD. After all, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
And, when you are fired up, what does silence have to do with anything anyway?
Allow me to set the scene:
I mentioned recently that I started running again, but what I didn’t tell you is that I usually jump start my fitness with some good, old-fashioned Taylor. Swift. When her album 1989 came out, I ran 10 miles for the first time in my life. A few new releases later, and I find myself hitting the trails once again.
My husband? Not a fan. So, if you are shaking your head in bemused disappointment, you can feel well-represented.
Even so, perhaps you followed the controversy over her music video, You Need to Calm Down. I drafted an entire post about it. I spent precious hours vehemently attacking my computer keys.
(For the most part, because I am a Christian and, despite popular generalizations, I want all of my LGBT friends and family to know: I love you so much. What I know of the character of God leads me to believe He feels the same, although we can agree to disagree when it comes to the concept of eternal marriage.)
But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today.
As I was writing, a direct, clear picture came to my mind:
I felt God ask me to take a deeper look at my words, as well as my audience.
Because, the truth is, the people who staunchly refuse to love their neighbor due to a label — whether that label reads “I am a Christian”, “I am African American”, or “I am gay” — often will not be moved.
Sometimes silence is the better way.
The question is, when is silence a hallmark of empowerment, rather than censorship?
5 Signs That Silence is Powerful, Rather Than Harmful:
#1: You feel in control.
If you are being victimized in any way — bullying, sexual harassment, violence, extortion — you should immediately ask for help. Silence is harmful when perpetrators use it to fuel victimization. If a situation feels out of your control, someone needs to know about it.
On the flip side, you may remove yourself from the driver’s seat, either pre-emptively “washing your hands” of your words, or reacting rather than acting toward a worthy cause. In this case, you may want to weigh your words more carefully.
#2: Something else is more important.
A few worthwhile questions to ask yourself before you speak up might be:
- Will this matter in the long haul?
- How will speaking up or staying silent affect those around me?
- Does what I’m about to say fall in line with my basic principles and values, in word and in deed?
You may not always choose silence after this review, but silence is powerful when practiced with awareness of the bigger picture.
#3: You use it to acknowledge/avoid hypocrisy.
As imperfect, flawed human beings, hypocrisy is almost inevitable, but silence is powerful when you allow your actions to speak on your behalf.
Rather than heatedly calling out hatred, be kind. Live in the light, and others will follow; speak disingenuously, and they will know.
#4: You apply it following discussed expectations.
Don’t be afraid to try your hand at diplomacy first. Otherwise, you may eventually explode, only to discover you had an ally in your neighbor all along. Human beings are, for the better I think, not mind-readers. Silence is powerful when those around you are clearly aware of your expectations and boundaries.
#5: Because God says so.
You may check every other box in favor of speaking out and still feel compelled to hold back.
I saw this the other day on a friend’s Facebook page and found it applicable:
Regardless of your personal logic, silence is powerful when directed by a loving God, who always knows best.
What would Jesus do?
Yet Jesus also cleansed the temple. He shared select teachings with the Pharisees. He left Pilate with His straight-forward declaration: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18: 37).
So, maybe the key is: make the time to ask Him what He thinks. He will soften your heart where it needs softening, and put words into your mouth to confound the wise, each in their own course.
Here’s to greater awareness in our interactions — in other words: #WWJD.
Ideas for Discussion
- Have you ever been “re-routed” by God?
- Are there labels that you struggle with? Either in the way you approach others or the way some approach you?
- How do you balance standing up for your beliefs with sharing the love and light of Christ?