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Maybe you shouldn’t chime in on this

By: allison moore

In an age of social media, anyone has a platform to say just about anything at any time. Holding one's tongue has become a lost virtue. It’s such a lost art that SNL gave us "Should You Chime In On This?" — a skit to point out our crazy addiction to our own opinions.

Chiming in on a hot topic is a lot more tempting when there’s not an actual person staring back at you. It’s easy to press the post button and walk away from the screen to escape the damage our words may cause.

God is not even sort of vague on the topic. In fact, there are whole passages in the Bible about watching our words, like James 3:1-12 and a host of other verses (start here).

On the other hand, Jesus gives us instructions like, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). How can we know when we should keep quiet and when to chime in to defend our faith?

In a world saturated with brief pseudo-social interactions, how do we speak the love of Christ into a changing culture amidst overwhelming opportunities to interject too many opinions? In an effort to figure out when to talk and when to keep silent, consider these first.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Chiming In

1.  Do I know what I’m talking about?

Proverbs 17:27-28 doesn’t pull punches: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Have you done any research or have personal experience on the topic? Have you looked into more than one opinion that you disagree with? Ignorant input is not only annoying but sad.

2. Am I making a point or making a difference?

If we’re trying to win the conversation by crafting the best argument, we’re probably wasting our breath. We can have a bigger impact in someone’s life by listening to what they’re saying instead of just formulating a response. All too often, we try to solve problems a person doesn’t have or answer questions that haven’t been asked.

“There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Ask questions to guide them to the answers they seek and you’ll find your words to be impactful rather than irritating.  

3. Do I have a relationship with the other person?

We’re more likely to digest truth from people we have a relationship with. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” We need to earn the right to speak into someone’s life.  If we would spend more time building that trust rather than wasting time randomly sucker-punching folks, we’d accomplish a great deal more.

Our actions—past and present—validate the words we say or render them useless. The right to speak into someone’s life is earned rather than simply granted. Find the right time and place to interject. Be intentional. Job 13:5 says, “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.”

4. Do I want to sound helpful or actually be helpful?

Skip the cliché verses or Christianisms. Don’t just toss out “All things work together for good” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” These simply are not helpful. Most often the best thing to do is be present and show love by word and deed. If these kinds of overused and often misused verses are all you have, please increase your toolbox and hold your tongue.

5. Will my words carry any weight?

If we have great marriages, do well with kids, or handle finances responsibly, people will take notice and come to us for advice before we even think of offering it. Many in the church today are way too fond of shooting truth bombs aimlessly at unsuspecting folks. Instead, truth should naturally overflow from our hearts onto all those we encounter. Advice not sought is not appreciated. 

Frederick Buechner sums it up best in his book, Longing For Home

“...The most precious thing I have to give them is not whatever words I find to say- but simply whatever, spoken or unspoken, I have in me of Christ, which is also the most precious thing they have to give me.”

May we learn to be present without always being heard. May we live lives that speak volumes on their own, so we don’t always have to add words. May we think before we speak, so we add value rather than pain to those around us. 

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