Knowing when to speak and when to be silent is not an easy task. We are often obliged to converse with our neighbor in order to accomplish our duties. It is even known to be an act of mercy to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, etc. So, what sort of principles are we to follow in order to know when to speak or to remain silent? Everyone’s situations are different; however, the following standards have served me well, and I constantly remind myself of them in order to better control my tongue:
8 THINGS TO REMEMBER
1. Always take time to consider what you will say before you speak.
2. Consider whether or not the words you intend to express would be pleasing to Almighty God, and also your guardian angel, who is ever at your side.
3. If you are angry, be silent until your peace returns to you; unless you are obliged to reply immediately to your neighbor or superior out of charity, obedience, or respect. If you are obliged to speak when internally annoyed or angry, take a deep breath and try to answer as slowly and calmly as possible, imploring God all the while to help you to be patience and meek.
4. The saints say that “A good word out of time turns to bitter wormwood, and will do more harm than benefit for he with whom you converse.” So, do not attempt to give advice or criticize those who do not ask it of you unless you are their parent, superior, or a person directly responsible for their spiritual or bodily welfare.
5. Reveal not of the faults of other unless duty or charity requires it of you. Instead, praise the good qualities of others, and stand up for those whom you hear attacked in your presence.
6. If your neighbor asks you for consolation, instruction, or advice, do not hesitate to help him. By doing thus, you will merit the assistance of God, the saints, and angels in return for your assistance to your neighbor.
7. Try to converse more often with those who bring up religious matters in their discussions, and spend less time talking about worldly and irreligious topics. For, spending time with those who have control of their tongues will help teach us to do the same.
8. Finally, try to say kind and loving words more often to your neighbor. Thus, you will merit the love and benevolence of God.
Venerable Mary of Agreda, in her book, The Mystical City of God, explains that silence was one of Our Blessed Mother’s favorite virtues. From the moment of Our Lady’s birth, she was filled with wisdom greater than Solomon, and also the ability to speak eloquently. Yet, she remained silent for the first one and a half years of her life, because she was afraid of speaking even one disordinate word! She only took up verbal communication at the age of 1 1/2 due to the explicit command of God for her to converse with her fellow creatures. Even after starting to speak, she only did so when charity towards her neighbor, necessity, or the greater honor and glory of God required it of her. We ought to be ever watchful over our words if even our Blessed Mother was frightened that she, who was immaculate, might fall into sins of the tongue!
I would like to conclude by sharing with you a few words from Our Blessed Mother to Venerable Mary of Agreda concerning this topic which is recorded in her book, The Mystical City of God (Volume I – The Conception - Pg. 306):
“386. To speak without moderation and forethought is a two-edged sword, which wounds both him that speaks and him that hears, and this in two ways destroys charity or hinders it in all the virtues. From this thou canst understand, how much God is offended by the vice of inconsiderate and loose talk, and how justly loquacity, and the tumult of disputation estranges His spirit and veils His presence. For, those who talk much, cannot keep free from grievous sins (Prov. 10:19). Only with God and with his saints one can speak with security, and even then, it must be with forethought and discretion. With creatures, it is very difficult to preserve the golden middle, without danger or passing from the correct and necessary to the imperfect and superfluous.
387. The way to avoid this danger is to tend continually toward the other extreme, striving rather to reflect and be silent. For the prudent medium of speaking only what is necessary, is found more in reflection then in immoderate speech.”