The sweet sound of silence
“Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.” Plutarch
Driving to our gourmet club up the long, narrow, icy road, our newest member, accompanied by his young wife and mother-in-law, landed his Ford pickup in the ditch. We received an SOS, and several friends hurried down to help while most of us stayed behind, enjoying wine, hors d’oeuvres and conversation.
After about an hour, one helper returned to the house with the new bride and her mother. The others remained at the bottom of the hill, tenaciously trying to pull the truck from the ravine. A call to AAA had been fruitless; there was no help to be found for hours on a dark, private road in Evergreen.
“How did it happen? Isn’t the truck four-wheel drive?” Those of us safe and warm in the house peppered the two rescued women with questions.
“It’s four-wheel, but he didn’t think he needed it until it was too late to shift. I didn’t say anything. I’m learning the diplomacy of marriage,” the bride of four months replied.
How wise, I thought. Here she is, a few months into wedded bliss, and she has learned the lesson I am still trying to master 50 years into my marriage.
Just a few hours earlier, Irv had said he was going to fry the precooked chicken wings that he had bought at Costco and take them as his appetizer offering to the gourmet club.
“Those disgusting wings? You are going to take those? No one will want to eat them. I better double my dip recipe,” I harangued.
“That’s what I’m taking.”
After a few more minutes of badgering, my Mussar brain finally kicked in. “The more I protest, the more you’ll dig in. So I’ll shut up now. Do what you will.”
I chose silence; he chose the wings. They weren’t the most popular of the appetizers, but no one grimaced at the sight of them, and some even got eaten.
Considering the words of the new bride, I recognized that I could have avoided the whole unpleasant interaction with my spouse if I had just remained silent. I remembered (albeit too late) a poem I had written several years ago:
Speech and Silence
Speak out in praise and blessing,
Stay silent in judgment.
Speak out with thanks,
Stay silent in impatience.
Speak out to teach,
Stay silent to learn.
Speak out with forethought and kindness,
Stay silent in defensive anger.
Speak out against injustice,
Stay silent rather than gossip.
Speak out in danger,
Stay silent with unsolicited advice.
Speak out with love.
Stay silent with love.