Pastor Robert Eckert
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford
…when you don’t know what to say? Brainyquote.com gives credit to Abraham Lincoln for the familiar axiom, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Lincoln has a reputation as a Bible reader so he might have been putting his own spin on Proverbs 17:28a that says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise” (King James Version, no NIVs or NRSVs in Lincoln’s day).
I wonder if the editor of the Post would have indulged me if I had asked to just print my name with a few inches of white space below so that even though a fool, I might be counted wise, or at least avoid removing all doubt.
It’s just one of those seasons that come along from time to time in the lives of those of us whose vocations include public speaking and frequent writing. We might have plenty on our minds, but when it’s a mix of the unresolved and personal, knowing what needs to be said, what has the potential to be useful and productive, isn’t always obvious.
Come to think of it, anyone of us can expect to find ourselves in such uncertain moments. Are you familiar with the guideline that if it’s not true, not kind, or not necessary, it ought not be said? Right now little is coming to mind that fully passes muster.
A couple of contributors to the Bible had interesting perspectives on not knowing what to say, remaining silent, holding one’s peace. The prophet Amos ran off a laundry list of wrongs being committed by certain people of ancient Israel. He named those who “abhor the one who speaks the truth,” “trample on the poor,” “afflict the righteous, take a bribe, and push aside the needy.” Then he drew an ironic conclusion after having just spoken up so loudly and clearly. The “prudent,” he said, “will keep silent in such a time.” Who says there’s no wit along with the wisdom contained in the pages of the Bible? (Amos 5:10-13, New Revised Standard Version.)
To those who find themselves at a loss in one particular form of dialogue, the Apostle Paul writes, “We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.” (Romans 8:26, Common English Bible.)
I hope you weren’t counting on this leading up to a pithy and profound conclusion. I don’t have one, unless it counts simply to pass on that the Bible seems to indicate that it’s ok not to know what to say and sometimes, saying nothing is the only way to get where we want to be. “Stand silent. Know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a, The Living Bible.)