“When silence is a good thing”

Three men were to be electrocuted in the electric chair.  Joe, a lawyer was the first.  They asked if he had any last words, and he argued that means of death was inhumane and shouldn’t be allowed. They put him in the chair and pulled the switch, but nothing happened.  At that point Joe argued that this form of inhumane punishment was illegal and he should be released, and they did release him. The next man, Fred was a lawyer also. When given the chance to speak his last words, he argued that this was inhumane and shouldn’t be allowed. Again they pulled the lever and nothing happened. Fred then argued that he had to be released and they released him. The third man was Ole.  As they put him in the chair, they asked if he any last words to speak. Ole replied, “Well I don’t know what those two silly lawyers were thinking, but being an engineer I can tell you that this thing won’t work until you make sure that the cord is plugged properly into that electrical socket over there.”


In that situation Ole might have been smart to keep his mouth shut.  Too often people think they have to say something or show off their knowledge.  The person who is “the-know- it -all” is usually not the most popular person in the room. It is very irritating to those who are trying to teach when someone always shouts out the answer. A good teacher works with students to help them come up with the answer and not just tell them.  Simply telling a person the answer doesn’t help them learn or develop skills to find the answer.  As an old quote reminds us “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt.” The bible states something similar, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28. The Bible also tells about one who stayed silent for a good reason.


When Jesus was on trial Jesus said very little.  Some shouted “crucify him” others told lies about him, but Jesus said nothing. He remained silent like a lamb that is being led to slaughter.  In fact, he was the very Lamb of God who had come to take away the sin of the world, and he did it by his suffering and death on the cross.  The cross is a message of hope to all who are lost.  St. Paul states, “I didn’t use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God’s message. For I decided that I would speak only of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.  In the Christian church we call that the Gospel message and that is a message that should never be silent, but we should be wise how we share it.


For example when someone has lost a loved one we may want to share all kinds of religious words “like now your husband is in heaven” or “he’s in a better place” or “now he is with Jesus”. All of these statements are true, but to the person who is hurting over the loss of a loved one, what they probably need most of all is someone who is willing to simply sit with them, weep with them, and give them a shoulder to cry on.   Many years ago I met my sister at the airport. Two days earlier she had lost her husband suddenly with a rare heart problem. They had only been married seven months and I wondered what should I say when we met?  I don’t remember what I did, but later I asked her and she reminded me that I said nothing, but I gave her a hug and she said “at that moment that is what I needed.”  Sometimes silence is the best thing for us to do.


Those are just my thoughts from this quiet SE corner of South Dakota!


Chaplain David Gunderson (retired)

Yankton, South Dakota.

  April 2020  
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