They say silence is golden. Your mother probably told you that if you didn't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all. Benjamin Franklin said, "Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." What a great saying! What can the sound of silence contribute to your effective communication? Plenty!

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: . . . a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)

The Lord shares with us that there is a time to speak up, but there is also a time to be silent. These times occur more often than you might think! There are four main reasons to "keep silence."  

1. We are called to silence when we might hurt someone's feelings. Some things must be said, but other things only serve to anger, inflame, upset, or frustrate others. Ask yourself if there is a higher purpose to the words you plan to utter. If not, it is quite possible that you would be most eloquent in silence. Remember that not every comment requires a response! Some things are better left unsaid.

"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." (Psalm 141:3)

"Never argue with a fool. Someone watching may not be able to tell the difference." -Author Unknown 

2. We are called to silence when all the facts are not yet in. It is a human foible that we love to seem as if we know things. Sharing information with the "Know Nots" somehow makes us feel privileged. Occasionally we find that what we know isn't truth at all. That's why Snopes.com is so popular. If you have only part of the story, one side of the issue, or have not corroborated your facts, God may be calling you to silence to keep you from unwittingly speaking gossip or deceit.

"Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." (Psalm 34:13)

"Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:16)

"Tis better to be thought a fool, than open one's mouth and remove all doubt."—Abraham Lincoln   

3. We are called to silence when we have nothing of value to say. Having nothing to say often doesn't stop us from speaking. Engaging in mindless, filler speech almost invites "Foot in Mouth Disease." Having nothing of value to say can be a sign that we should be listening to what others have to say. The Lord puts others in our midst for many reasons, and one of them is so that they might teach and minister to us. It's difficult to hear the wisdom of God speaking through others when our mouths are fully engaged in folly.

"A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself." (Proverbs 18:2)

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." (Proverbs 18:13)  

"The mind is like a TV set—when it goes blank, it's a good idea to turn off the sound." -Anonymous

4. We are called to silence when we would be speaking out of anger. When we are angry, there is the danger that we would say things we might later regret, things others may find difficult to forgive. We can cause others to stumble, cut to the heart of a friend, and destroy a precious relationship with the words we use. Don't respond when you are still angry. Give it a few hours or days, if you can, in order to respond out of love instead of in anger. Read over your email. Think over your response before you make that call and, most importantly, pray over it.

"A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." (Proverbs 18:19)