May 22

“A fool gives vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

When I was a little girl, I often heard that children should be seen but not heard. Perhaps this sounds harsh to you, but there are times when it is appropriate for children to be quiet although they are nearby. For example, when two adults are having a conversation, it is proper for a child to be quiet until there is a pause when he can say, “Excuse me,” rather than interrupting. If I am one of those adults and see a child patiently waiting to talk, I will be sure to pause giving him or her a chance to speak, unless it would be hurtful to the adult to do so. If we give children too much freedom, they may never learn the value of silence, of “holding back” feelings, especially anger and frustration. *

Families are often lax at practicing silence unless it is the silence of sulking, ignoring, or shunning. Many family members today say that they feel comfortable enough to be themselves, meaning that they can say whatever they want to spouses, children, parents, and siblings. This is not only unbiblical, but it’s unkind.  If we think that saying whatever we wish (giving vent to our spirits) is a good thing, that being foolish is right, we are wholly unbiblical, and we are the fools referred to in Proverbs. Fools are lost souls that live for this world and have not eternal hope. We who have the gospel working in our hearts are to be the most compassionate and empathetic, caring more for others than ourselves. As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to serve and trust the Lord to provide for us, rather than assert our every need and opinion.

Two of my favorite places are libraries and bookstores, probably because they are quiet spaces where everyone is occupied. It’s easy to be quiet in a place designed for that purpose, but homes can also be quiet places of refuge. Perhaps there is a particular room where, or a specific time when it might be useful for someone in your family to calm down or relax quietly. In my experience as a primary school headmaster, one of the most effective uses of silence was on behalf of out-of-control students who needed to disengage,  to “gather themselves” and come back to their senses. I learned to do this for myself first and then was able to help children learn to use time-outs for their anger management.

There are many ways to incorporate quietness in our homes: silence for a moment during family prayer times or devotions, quiet homework time, TV off for reading time, journaling, and listening to a story or other material being read out loud. Listening carefully, writing, thinking, and reading require some quietness, if not complete silence. Which of these need to be emphasized in your home or in your daily routines? As for me, I’m doing it right now. 😊

* Bible translations besides the ESV use alternate words for “spirit:” the NIV uses “rage” and the NLT, ERV and GN use “anger.”

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