In the course of their quest to live peaceably and simply, the Amish have developed many wise proverbs. This is one of my favorites:
“Swallowing words before you say them is so much better than having to eat them afterward.”
Were I to attempt writing a proverb of my own, it would go like this:
“If you desire more peace, let your ears be quick and your mouth be slow.”
Though I haven’t always lived by that bit of practical wisdom, I have learned to be careful about spouting off on political or religious topics, because doing so often subtracts from the peace rather than adding to it. Responding too quickly often means speaking carelessly, without giving enough thought to what others are saying or to how they might respond to your words.
The familiar phrase “hold your peace” provides a useful visual. When we “hold our peace,” we are maintaining our silence. Our decision to keep quiet unless and until it’s time to speak gives us the ability to stay peaceful, helping to maintain the peace around us. Exercising this kind of self-control can also increase our influence, because people tend to listen to calm voices rather than anxious or angry ones.
Peace is something precious, something to be guarded and protected. The next time you find yourself in a situation in which you are tempted to respond with rapid-fire words, try imagining yourself “holding your peace.” Do your best to think calmly, asking God for his wisdom to shape your response.