One of my favorite sayings is this:
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
This saying is often attributed to Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln, but it most likely originated in its modern form by author Maurice Switzer as a verse in his book, “Mrs. Goose, Her Book”.
There is a similar sentiment expressed in Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Good words! (Proverbs if full of nuggets for life.)
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, the temptation is to publicly and instantly express your righteous indignation at situations you observe. In times past, the same situations would:
1) Be much less visible and would pass by without your important input, or
2) Require you to actually converse either face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice, or to put word to paper which would need to then be transferred to the object of your outrage.
As a child, I read the classic John Bunyan book, The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan wrote this Christian allegory, originally titled The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream, in 1678, while imprisoned for holding unauthorized religious gatherings. In this tale, Christian sets off for the Celestial City. He finds that the way is narrow and that few that walk it will stay the course. Christian is joined by his friend Pliable. The two of them fall into the Slough of Despond, which is a mire – a boggy swamp. They sink into the swamp, dragged down by their doubts and fears and their condition as sinners. At this point, Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out of the bog. Christian is saved by Help who sets him on the course to the Wicket Gate.
The mire is nasty. Falling into it unawares causes Christian to become trapped in its filth. Help, who has heard his cries, explains to him upon rescue: “True, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial Steps, placed even through the very midst of this Slough; but at such time as this place doth much spew out its filth, as it does against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen, or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step besides; and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there; but the ground is good when they are once got in at the Gate.”
Wow. If the shoe fits, use it to stay on the stepping stones that have been placed carefully throughout the muck. And as I feel the temptation to react with emotion and potentially declare myself a fool, I consider the mire, the path, the narrow way, and the consequences of an unbridled tongue.