When Silence Isn’t Golden

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
— Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)

Have you ever said, “Silence is golden?” Most of us have. It is true in many ways. For example: When the little ones are finally settled in bed at night, don’t most parents bask in the peaceful golden glow of silence? What if you have said something you should never have said? Then it is abundantly clear that silence would have been golden, right? What if someone says something unkind to you? If you refrain from flying off the handle, such silence is pure gold. What if you are tempted to tell just one person that juicy story you heard about… and you resist? Well, you can be sure that in this case silence is golden!

However, is silence always golden? Perhaps it is not. Think about it. If we have an opportunity to tell others about Jesus, but remain silent, is this a golden moment? Is silence golden, if we refuse to defend the defenseless, choosing to go along in order to get along? What if I know that a sister is discouraged, but I fail to encourage her? Is this silence golden? Maybe a fellow-saint is being wrongfully maligned for deeds we know he did not do. Would our silence be golden if we timidly decline to speak in his defense? Is the silence golden if we know of a brother’s sin, but make no attempt to lovingly admonish him? What if, in spite of my most sincere efforts to do right, I have made a huge mistake? Is the silence golden, if I stubbornly refuse to admit that I was wrong and simply say, “I’m sorry?”

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. In this regard, Proverbs 10:19 cautions: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Indeed, James teaches us that we sould be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). But, he does not say zip the lip and never speak. The real challenge is in finding a healthy balance, because, as illustrated above, there are times when silence isn’t golden.

Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs 12:18 seems to bring this into perspective. Here he states, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Through the Apostle Paul we are further instructed concerning the need for balance. He writes: “Do not let any unwholesome talk some out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). No wonder Solomon included the following in his collection of proverbs: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

We must never underestimate the power of the words we speak. They do not simply spill off our lips and slip into oblivion. No! They settle deeply into the hearts of those who receive them and reverberate through the years. Words from a wise and godly person bring health and healing. They build up and benefit those who listen.

In this regard, I will never forget the words of a poem I learned as a young person. I’m not sure who penned this verse, but I have long appreciated his or her sentiments. It is:
“A word is dead, when it is said,” some say;
But I say, “It really begins to live that day.

Close your eyes and think of those with whom you interact each day. Whom do you see? Look closely now. What do you see? Can you see it in their eyes? It’s written all over their faces, isn’t it? There are so many souls longing to be loved—longing for the silence to be broken by a golden word of encouragement. And there are others, aren’t there? Are there those who need to hear a word of caution regarding conduct which is contrary to Christ. Do you see the others—those who yearn for someone to help them come to know God and His will more clearly? And, there are others with that look of desperation on their faces—those who need to hear for the first time about the Savior?

If we fail to speak a word for Christ to these, this is when silence isn’t golden.

© Bill Williams
April 10, 2007

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About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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11 Responses to When Silence Isn’t Golden

  1. A word I needed to hear today.

    Bobby Valentine

  2. Neva Cooper says:

    We cannot not speak about God and His love.

    Good post—as always


  3. John Roberts says:

    Great thoughts, Bill. A much needed reminder that there are times to be silent, but also times when an appropriate word is what is needed most.

  4. Nancy says:

    Good reminder — Free speech is worthless if we don’t use it to tell people the good news!

  5. Kathy says:

    Balance and discernment.

    When to observe silence and just listen. When to speak, encouraging, calling to accountability, teaching, or again, just listening. Difficult to maintain that balance sometimes. It usually takes a long look in the eyes of others to help make the right decision. But when in doubt, listening is best, imho.

    In prayer, listening for God’s voice is of prime importance. I often have to remind myself to stop the chatter and give Him room to speak.

    I’m reading a collection of Henri Nouwen quotes, excerpts from his writings and interviews. He presents the precious jewel of silence before God in a uniquely powerful way. He opines that it is impossible to have a meaningful prayer life without silence and solitude with God.

    However, it is difficult in this society to maintain silence, to find a space that is silent, where we can seek solitude in order to be silent in communication with God on a day to day basis. It’s also a very difficult discipline to develop silence in solitude before God.

    I must admit to falling into the trap of being a chatterer more than a listener before God. It’s getting better. Will you include my improvement in your prayers?

    Silence truly is golden, while a sweet word is a beautiful song to the heart.

  6. Keith Davis says:

    Great thoughts brother! I’m reminded of the the verse in Matthew when Jesus was sending them out. (Matthew 10:19 NCV) “When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given the things to say.”

    Through the power of the Holy Spirit I believe that He still can give us what to say. There have been many times in my life that fear would leave me and I would speak boldly for God and walk away wondering where that came from. I believe those were moments of power from God. He is awesome!!

  7. cwinwc says:

    I seem to remember the story of someone asking Albert Einstein for his formula for success. He stated it (as he would) as a mathematical equation:

    S = xyz

    When he was asked to define his variables he replied:
    X = the proper amount of work
    Y = the proper amount of fun
    Z = knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut

  8. Greg England says:

    Some ancient people believed once a word was spoken, it became an entity, taking on a life of it’s own. I’m not sure but what they were on to something!

  9. Kathy says:

    Bill – totally OT – but are y’all okay over there on that wet coast? I understand the rain is horrendous, as well as the winds. Can you let us know that you’re okay?

    In His love, grace and mercy


    Hello, Kathy! Thanks for your concern. All is well at my home, though after more than 5 inches of soaking rain today the sump pumps in our basement are running almost non-stop. Some areas are not doing so well. The winds are also starting to pick up. Here’s a link to some photos posted on the NewsJournal’s site: WEATHER PHOTOS.


  10. cwinwc says:

    I spent most of yesterday morning and early afternoon in the home of one of our members who lost their 22 year old daughter in a traffic head on collision with a drunk driver. There was a lot of silence in that house.

  11. Emily says:

    Thank you for posting this Bill – it has really encouraged me to speak the truth in love to my brothers & sisters in Christ.

    In His care,


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