By Daryl Crouch
Who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt?”
Some people say Mark Twain, while others attribute the saying to Abraham Lincoln. Still others contend it was someone else.
Ironically, we really don’t know who said it first.
The phrase, however, is incredibly similar in theme to Proverbs 17:27-28:
The one who has knowledge restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding. Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent—discerning, when he seals his lips.”
Church leaders, especially pastors, are not only students of the Word of God; we’re passionate about language. Words are our currency of influence.
We value a well-timed, well-turned phrase. We labor over the words we choose to make the points we want to make.
We also read words. You’re reading this article. We consume books, magazines, online periodicals, and social media posts. We listen to preachers, speakers, and teachers, and genuinely admire anyone who displays word craft.
So while we give ourselves to words, pastors and leaders aren’t always sure what to do with the person who has little to say. As we lead, build teams, and train leaders, we aren’t sure what to think about the quiet ones.
Is she concentrating or conspiring? Is he supportive or suspicious? Is he intimidated or intrigued? Does she even care what we’re trying to do here?
Interestingly enough, the quietest person in the room is often the most influential of all. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The quietest person in the room is more engaged than you think.
James wrote, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Listening is not a passive exercise. It takes energy and intentionality, but it also requires an inquisitive mind.
Someone has said, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I’m not sure what the cat got into that brought on his demise, but human curiosity has cured many ills and solved many problems.
Leaning into hard questions and listening for the best answers helped us get to the moon, find remedies for diseases, and develop new technologies that have improved the quality of life.
Listeners are learners, so the quiet ones are often the ones who most deeply engaged in the questions being asked. They’re often the ones processing the solutions that will be necessary.
And they are often the ones who possess the know-how to accomplish the mission at hand.
2. The quietest person in the room is more helpful than you think.
There were five of us around the table in the coffee shop. Most of us were talking back and forth, casting vision, recommending solutions, and maybe bragging just a little about the uprightness of our leadership.
But there was one guy just smiling, nodding, and interacting only when necessary.
After an hour or so, the meeting began to break up and that one quiet guy turned to me and spoke these nine powerful words, “Where do you want us to send our check?” The quiet one was the guy they trusted with the money!
When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19
We may gravitate to the people with phenomenal speaking gifts, but people with serving gifts are characterized by prudence, trustworthiness, and reliability. Every leader needs people around them who possess these traits.
These quiet ones add value because they add credibility. They don’t allow us to neglect the important details. They help us turn dreams into reality.
3. The quietest person in the room is more spiritual than you think.
Controlling the tongue isn’t just an interpersonal skill. It’s a spiritual discipline.
Again, Jesus’ half-brother James reminds us our tongue may be small, but it can do great good or great harm. He said the person who controls his speech is a mature person.
James suggests that both blessing and cursing from the same tongue is inconsistent with the Spirit-filled life.
So while spiritual leaders have a lot of important things to say, we might consider learning from the quiet people in our ministries. There’s a high value of calmness our occasional silence can produce.
Sometimes saying less means more. It’s possible that saying nothing at all is the most spiritual thing we can do.
Perhaps we too could quietly trust God, walk in the Spirit, and give other people the opportunity to hear from Him without being interrupted by us.
DARYL CROUCH (@darylcrouch) is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.