by Dn. Mark Oleynik
To get my classmates (and me) quiet, an elementary teacher of mine often told us, “people have two ears and only one mouth so we should be twice as ready to listen than speak.” Scripture agrees in the claim that a quick ear and a cautious tongue are marks of real greatness. St. James cries to us: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19).
As we enter Great Lent—the season of solemnity and quietness—we are taught to not only abstain from foods, but that our fasting also involve our eyes, ears, feet, hands, and all the members of our bodies. Sometimes the lack of our favorite foods is the easier part of fasting while these other aspects prove to be more difficult. To meet these challenges perhaps we (both parents and children) can consider engaging more heartily in the study of quietness.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:11 we read “study to be quiet.” This apostolic advice seems to be a strange ambition for us today. Most are not ambitious “to be quiet”—but rather to make the greatest possible noise in the world. Our society is often ready to hang the biggest medal around the neck of the person who has succeeded in causing commotion. But as followers of Christ, we should strive to live quietly; and peaceably in all godliness and honesty. Silence, to be sure, is not always golden, but it can be the prevailing tone and temper of life. The greatest powers, like the deepest rivers, make little noise. Our perfect example was Jesus before Herod: His silence was more eloquent than any words.
Another facet to quietness is to have the good sense to be “slow to speak.” Most words that have wounded, rankled, and broken hearts—the words that you would give anything to take back—were spoken in haste. It is the mark of a master to be able to hold one’s peace under such circumstances. “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:10).
Finally, be ambitious to be quiet when you are tempted to speak evil of others. Much of the sorrow and darkness in our world is due to evil speaking, and most of that is due to a lack of sympathy. When we do speak our words should always be spoken in truth and with love otherwise we should ask God to help us be quiet. If we could perceive the secret struggles and difficulties and heartaches of one another it would not be possible for us to think and speak unkindly towards others.
Jesus frequently said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Our Lord knew that those to whom He spoke had ears; but He also knew that few people know how to use their ears. During this Lenten season let all of our families attempt to use our ears twice as much while becoming better students of quietness.