Too Many Words
"Mom, no offense, but sometimes you talk too much.” Katie had asked a question, and I must have delivered an answer that seemed either boring or belabored. I made a mental note to try to get to the point more quickly the next time she asked me something.
A story is told about Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century British prime minister. A junior member of parliament once solicited his advice about whether he should speak up about a controversial issue.
“Do you have anything to say that has not already been said?” Disraeli asked him.
“No,” the man conceded. “I just want the people whom I represent and the members of Parliament to know that I participated in the debate.”
Disraeli answered, “It is better to remain silent and have people say, ‘I wonder what he’s thinking,’ than to speak up and have people say, ‘I wonder why he spoke.’”1
If each of us were to follow Disraeli’s advice, think of how much more peace there would be in the world. No more endless meetings in which people talk simply to hear the sound of their voices. No more nonstop media chatter. No more senseless blogs and tweets.
Have you ever wondered about the endless stream of opinion surveys that populate our world? Eager pollsters solicit our thoughts on issues ranging from the best brand of diapers to the secret of world peace. Then come the results: 51 percent say one thing, while 48 percent say the opposite and one percent respond in the “other” category. Why don’t the pollsters give you the option of saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or “I’m not going to offer my opinion on foreign policy because I am not qualified to judge the issues at hand”?
Sometimes we talk too much and ponder too little, with the result that our world is full of clamor and stress. Let’s get comfortable with the phrase “I don’t know” and then start learning to practice the discipline that is called “keeping our peace.”
1. Joseph Telushkin, The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-By-Day Guide to Ethical Living (New York: Bell Tower, 2000), 29.
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