“Be for the most part silent, or speak merely what is necessary, and in few words.” Epictetus Enchiridion
I want to help. I want to give advice. After all, I have a lot of knowledge if people would just listen to me. Also, I am full of helpful advice if people would just listen to me. The long and short of it all is I do a lot of talking. I have the gift of gab, and I have a lot of helpful things to say. Except when I don’t.
My ego recently got the best of me. I have this self-image that I can be a peacemaker, a motivator and that I can fix anything with my words and my negotiating skills. Personally, I treasure this confidence, but without the required humility and perspective it can be a curse. So the curse struck yesterday. I decided to interject myself into a discussion between my son and my wife. Why? Because I am the man! I can make things better simply by the magic of my wise words, so keenly timed and expertly placed. Wrong!
What I should have had was humility…and silence. Like Epictetus advises. I should have been listening when I was talking. Worse, my conceit was so great that I was completely unaware of the damage I was doing with my talking. Confidently blazing ahead word after word…more damage. If I had simply been silent, the outcome would have been better. It would not have been perfect, which is what I thought I could achieve with my miraculous [uninvited] words, but it would have been better if I had just shut up. By the time I had noticed the hole I was digging in this situation, it was too late.
Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. If you must speak, then choose your words thoughtfully and carefully. Even if such words might be considered helpful, will they actually be helpful to the people involved? Have you ever received a speeding ticket and then driven unusually slow for several days or even weeks after? Today, I have been unusually quiet simply because I was caught “speeding.” A piece of humble pie is good for the soul now and again.
Also, learn from the mistakes of others. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself.