Restraint and Discretion

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” Proverbs 17:27 NIV

Mental and emotional restraint is often the better part of discretion.

My thoughts and comments today are about “restraint and discretion.”

When I was a boy, I must have been too talkative. I remember an occasion when my Dad seemed a bit annoyed, “Allen, do you know why God gave you two ears and only one mouth?” With a hint of fatherly impatience, he continued, “So you would listen twice as much as you talk.” That probably was not the intent of God’s creational design, but I understand my Dad’s point clearly. You are not listening when you are talking; you are not learning when you are not listening. My Dad admired Abraham Lincoln and frequently quoted his homespun humor and good sense, such as, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, I have rarely mastered the lesson and observe a similar failing among peers.When someone has to say, “What were you thinking,” you usually weren’t.

Mental and emotional restraint is often the better part of Godly discretion. My Dad was stressing two important practices: listening skills and careful forethought. Both are of incalculable value. As to listening skills, the Bible says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” Proverbs 18:13 NIV. And regarding careful forethought, The Bible gives this practical wisdom, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even tempered. Even a fool is thought to be wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:27-28 NIV.

Restraint and discretion preserve a favorable reputation and foster healthy relationships. Not every opinion you hold is right; not every thought you have is ready for public consumption. Forethought is an inestimable virtue, the ability to consider and process your thoughts before they are public. To my regret, I have spoken before listening sufficiently and allowed words to be public which should have remained thoughts held privately.

Luke wrote of an incident when Jesus took Peter, James, and John, His “inner circle” of disciples, to a mountain. Read Matthew 17:1-8 NKJV. As Jesus prayed, they were astonished by His transcendent glory, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” They were eyewitnesses to a heavenly visitation of Moses and Elijah – representing the Law and the Prophets – with Jesus, the divine and living Word. In his euphoria, Peter blurted out a bright idea he would better have kept to himself. Luke notes this, “Peter . . not knowing what he said.” Luke 9:33 NKJV. How descriptive!

Peter was probably surprised to hear himself speaking before he even realized he was, interrupting when he should have been listening. Ever been there, done that? Kindly but clearly, God interrupted Peter, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him! . . and they fell on their faces greatly afraid.” Solomon had good advice for such moments, “When you go to the house of God. Go near to listen . . do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God . . let your words be few.” Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 NIV. A few times, I have regretted not speaking up when I could; many more times, I have regretted speaking when I did.

My prayer for you today is that you cultivate critical thinking above critical comments.