One of my bad habits is not speaking when I should, then letting that urge to say something pile up until I must speak, but out it comes in less than thoughtful ways. Jesus was not like that . . .
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” (John 18:19–21)
Very few people are open like Jesus was open. He was not merely bold and frank or not worried about the consequences. He cared deeply about those listening and always had an attitude of what is best for their ears and their lives. He always spoke the truth in love.
I’ve noted that sometimes I am silent for “duh” reasons; I don’t know what to say. More often, I’m silent because I fear that my words will not be well received, or that people will not like me if I say it, so I don’t. That is not love but a silence rooted in fear or ignorance. Either I don’t want to upset the apple cart, or I don’t know what to say so I say nothing. However, when Jesus was silent, He usually was refusing to “cast pearls before swine” or could see no need to defend Himself.
Every time Jesus did speak, it was open and bold. He didn’t play with words or with His listener’s ears and hearts. His perfect candor was subservient to His love. He also dared to speak when words were needed and important. If the Holy Spirit put something on His heart that others needed to hear, He said it.
At times, silence can be a terrible pressure. A psalm of David tells of his struggle to speak up . . .
I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (Psalm 39:2–4)
Yet as much as I understand the speaking up part and am willing to do it, being silent or speaking with the right attitude remains the greater challenge. Candor can reveal a bitter heart if I speak the truth, but not in love. Candor apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit can also do irreparable harm to another and to a relationship. Often it takes courage and grace to be quiet, but it can also take great courage and grace to speak from the heart.