The Bible states: “The one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” “The man of broad discernment is one that keeps silent.” (Prov. 10:19; 11:12) Consider how beautifully Jesus manifested discretion and discernment by keeping silent. Upon discerning that speaking in the hostile environment generated by his enemies would serve no useful purpose, “Jesus kept silent.” (Matt. 26:63) Later, when on trial before Pilate, Jesus “made no answer.” He discreetly chose to let his public record speak for itself.—Matt. 27:11-14.
We too are wise to keep our lips in check, particularly when we are provoked. “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment,” says a proverb, “but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” (Prov. 14:29) A hasty oral response in a trying situation can result in rash speech that is later regretted. Under such circumstances, our words may appear foolish, and our peace of mind may suffer as a result.
It is the course of discretion to guard our lips when in the presence of wicked people. When confronted by ridiculers in our ministry, silence may well be the proper response. Moreover, would it not sometimes be wise to remain silent so as not to convey an impression of approval when our schoolmates or coworkers tell off-color jokes or use vulgar language? (Eph. 5:3) “I will set a muzzle as a guard to my own mouth,” wrote the psalmist, “as long as anyone wicked is in front of me.”—Ps. 39:1.
A person of “broad discernment” does not betray a confidence. (Prov. 11:12) A true Christian will not divulge confidential matters through unguarded speech. Christian elders must be particularly circumspect in this regard so as to retain the trust of members of the congregation.
Although silence carries no words, it can have a positive effect. Concerning one of his contemporaries, the 19th-century English writer Sydney Smith wrote: “He has occasional flashes of silence, that make his conversation perfectly delightful.” Indeed, everyday conversation between two friends should be two-way communication. A good conversationalist must be a good listener.
“In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression,” warned Solomon, “but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” (Prov. 10:19) Hence, the fewer the words spoken, the less the chance of committing an indiscretion. In fact, “even anyone foolish, when keeping silent, will be regarded as wise; anyone closing up his own lips, as having understanding.” (Prov. 17:28) May we, then, prayerfully ask Jehovah to ‘set a watch over the door of our lips.’—Ps. 141:3.