“It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
In my childhood circles, that was a favorite proverb1. No, I did not say it to my friends, nor did my friends say it to me. It wasn’t a favorite among the children. The proverb was a favorite for those who sought to guide us.
There is wisdom in the proverb.
Many situations in life call for personal presence and silence. The presence says, “I’m here and you are worth my time.” The silence says, “I can’t fathom the depths of your unique experience; I won’t presume my words matter right now.”
Other situations simply call for silence. Providing that silence as some one or some group works to think things through, to solve a problem, or to find relational resolution, is a great gift. In those cases, even if people think your silence signals foolishness, lack of depth, or disinterest—your silence is nonetheless a gift. It would be unwise to speak, to short-circuit their process, to offer your resolution in place of their hard-won resolution.
But, sometimes we must speak. While there is the potential for wisdom in silence, there is also the potential for wisdom in speech.
I’ve hesitated to write in public, in part because I’ve not wanted to demonstrate foolishness. I’m confident that I will say and write things that are, in retrospect, foolish.
More troubling, I’m confident that I will discover at times that I’m wrong.
For me, that is not a surprise. I discover a couple of times a year that I learned something that isn’t true—or that I’ve forgotten what I was taught and substituted something else.
For instance, in just this last year, I discovered that I’ve been forming the lower-case cursive “k” incorrectly—for decades. As I was working with my daughter on cursive letters, I saw that her tracing sheet showed a different way to make the “k.” In talking with my wife, she said the shape on the sheet was what she was taught. I went digging and discovered that none of the major standards for cursive taught the shape I’d been making. On that matter, I was wrong. Confident and wrong.
It is moments like that that have made me hesitate to write.
But, a 20 plus year hesitation is long enough.
This is also true about me: I strive to listen, to learn, and to make corrections to what I know and to I how I behave. By God’s grace I will learn to do that better and better as long as He grants me life—and learning to demonstrate that reality in a blog may not be a terrible thing.