I watched a movie recently called “Being There.” It is the story of a man who has essentially never ventured from his home out into the world. He has lived under the protection of another while he spent his time tending a garden. He is uneducated, not being able to read or write, and has no idea what faces him as he is forced out onto the street. As it happens, through a series of events he rises to a place of consideration for the presidency of the United States. Through all his interactions he is very reserved to the point of a series of pat answers. His big breakout happens when he ends up in an intimate meeting with the President and another Washington power broker. When he is asked his opinion on an issue he reverts to what he knows and expounds on the seasonal changes in his garden.
What ensues is the hype and fervor of the public exclaiming him to be brilliant, insightful, genius, and even sexy! Through his using very few words and speaking in his simple terms, everyone takes it as extraordinary intelligence.
I had a couple thoughts while watching the movie. One was that when you speak few words people tend to fill in the blanks as to what you mean. Often they will figure out what you are saying based on what they want to hear. People will also draw other conclusions as well revealing motivations and deep seeded beliefs about themselves. But what I was reminded of in the end was a passage in the Book of Proverbs that refers specifically to this type of interaction.
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips he is considered perceptive. Proverbs 17:27, 28 (NKJV)
Personal Takeaways: I need to talk a little less than I currently do. I have been in a few conversations with my brother, and they could only be defined as such loosely, in which I just didn’t know when to shut it down. It was mostly one way and that isn’t something I am very proud of. Secondly, I may have something to contribute to a conversation, but knowing when to talk and when not too is crucial. Silence is a good thing, especially when I feel I have to promote or defend myself in a given situation.
It comes down to using wisdom and common sense, and respecting the opinion and time of others. It is in listening, not talking, that we gain knowledge.
A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel to understand a proverb an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:5, 6 (NKJV)