When I Should Just Keep My Mouth Shut
The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Genesis 18:13-15
A while back, a friend told me what another individual said about me behind my back. It wasn’t terribly kind, and I found it to be hurtful, unfair, and simply not true. How dare they? I felt that if this individual had some conflict with me, then they should come to me directly, instead of complaining to others about me. That may be the healthy way to handle interpersonal conflict, but I had to ask myself if I always do the same. When I find fault in someone, do I seek the appropriate response? Usually, the healthy behavior would be to either address it with that individual or simply let it go. What I often do, is the very thing that irritated me – I complain to others about that person.
What if everything I said about an individual could be heard by that individual? That would probably change how I talk about people. But should it? If I’d be horrified to know that someone overheard what I was saying about them, then perhaps I shouldn’t be saying it in the first place. Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.
I think Sarah learned this lesson in today’s passage. In it, God – in the form of a man – approached Abraham, promising him that he and Sarah would have a son. With Abraham and Sarah both in their 90s, Sarah laughed to herself in disbelief. That’s impossible. Don’t be absurd. Sarah thought her words were private, but God overheard and confronted her. Why are you laughing? Like most of us would do, panicking when caught in a bad behavior, Sarah tried to lie her way out of it. I didn’t laugh. But God knew, and Sarah probably wished she’d have just kept her mouth shut.
That’s the lesson here for me – that sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. It’s a good general rule that I shouldn’t say anything negative about someone that I wouldn’t want them to overhear. If I have a problem with someone, I must ask myself if it’s worth addressing. If it’s not, I should simply let it go. What isn’t helpful, is to indulge in sinful behavior myself by disparaging that individual behind his or her back. Sometimes, I just need to keep my mouth shut.