The Wisdom of Silence

In one of Aesop’s Fables, a donkey walking through the woods finds the skin of a lion. Hunters had killed the lion and left the skin to dry in the sun. The donkey put on the lion’s skin and was delighted to discover that all the other animals were terrified of him and ran away when he appeared. Rejoicing in his newfound respect, the donkey brayed his happiness—only to give himself away by his voice. The moral of the fable was clear: fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.

In our day of social broadcasting it seems that anyone can become famous by disclosing every embarrassing part of his life to the world on television or the Internet. Yet what is truly gained by such “entertainment”? People may sit at home and laugh at the folly of those who hold nothing back, but they are diminished in the process. This produces a corrosive effect because it encourages people to share more and more when they have less and less to offer.

We have an epidemic of people sharing their opinions without regard to whether or not they have anything meaningful to say. Someone said, “The problem today is that those who know the least know it the loudest.” Indeed much of what is promoted as wisdom is actually anything but—it is the worst of foolishness displayed publicly.

Maybe you’ve heard the old saying “You have two ears and one mouth—use them proportionately.” Almost all of us could stand to listen more and talk less. Rather than being compelled to tell everyone we meet everything we can fit into the length of the conversation, we should remember that one of wisdom’s best qualities is the ability to hold the tongue.

“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”—Proverbs 29:11

Illustration Topics: