Editor's note:

Even a fool, when he hold­eth his peace, is count­ed wise: and he that shut­teth his lips is esteemed a man of under­stand­ing. —Proverbs 17:28 (KJV)

Or, as is often more suc­cinct­ly and humor­ous­ly attrib­uted to Abra­ham Lin­coln or Mark Twain: Bet­ter to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Today, St. Ambrose offers brief but wise coun­sel on the ben­e­fits of remain­ing silent — not main­ly to guard against look­ing fool­ish, but to keep our­selves safe from the trou­ble our tongues can bring. 

—Renovaré Team

Now what ought we to learn before every­thing else, but to be silent, that we may be able to speak? Lest my voice should con­demn me, before that of anoth­er acquit me; for it is writ­ten: By your words you shall be con­demned. (Matthew 12:37)

What need is there, then, that you should has­ten to under­go the dan­ger of con­dem­na­tion by speak­ing, when you can be more safe by keep­ing silent? How many have I seen to fall into sin by speak­ing, but scarce­ly one by keep­ing silent; and so it is more dif­fi­cult to know how to keep silent than how to speak. 

I know that most per­sons speak because they do not know how to keep silent. It is sel­dom that any one is silent even when speak­ing prof­its him noth­ing. He is wise, then, who knows how to keep silent. 

Last­ly, the Wis­dom of God said: The Lord has giv­en to me the tongue of learn­ing, that I should know when it is good to speak. Just­ly, then, is he wise who has received of the Lord to know when he ought to speak. Where­fore the Scrip­ture says well: A wise man will keep silence until there is oppor­tu­ni­ty. (Sir­ach 20:7)

Excerpt­ed from On the Duties of Cler­gy, Chap­ter II, Verse 5. Via New Advent.

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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