The Wisdom of Silence
Since my last post, I've written two new blog posts which are sadly still in my drafts folder. This always happens to me: I get an idea > quickly type up everything > I go off tangent > edit so it makes sense > go off tangent > give up > save as draft.
Am I the only writer who goes through something similar? People have given me advice on how to counter this especially Aida Azlin, who shares amazing reflections in her weekly newsletters, but I'm still failing miserably at implementing the tips she has shared with me. Each writer has their own unique writing process and since I've made the intention to only share things which can benefit people, it gets harder and harder to churn out blog posts because I do care about what it contains. I care about the quality of my words and how it will shape the minds of people that read it.
Despite not finding a way to write regularly as of yet, I do write whenever something inspires me and I believe it would benefit those who read it. But even then, I try not to write about matters that I've very little knowledge of (especially religion) because sometimes having little knowledge about a given topic can make one falsely believe they are entitled to start a huge discussion on that issue. As the saying goes:
We live in an age where people express themselves as frequently as they check their social media which is VERY frequent, if you ask me. With freedom comes great responsibility; just because you can share what you want at the push of a few buttons, doesn't mean you should. See it as quality control for your speech.
Isn't it funny just how much consideration goes into how we look—from the colour and length of our hair to the fitting and material of our clothes—but when it comes to our speech, we don't think that far? We care about how much our clothes and gadgets cost but not the COST of our speech and actions, which if you ask me, are interconnected. Every word of ours have an impact on the hearts and minds it enters—don't ever underestimate your influence. It only takes one person to start a revolution.
The Test of Three
The Greek philosopher Socrates said there are 3 gates which your speech should be filtered through:
- THE TEST OF TRUTH. How certain are you that this is the absolute truth?
- THE TEST OF GOODNESS. Is what you're about to say about X a good thing?
- THE TEST OF USEFULNESS. How beneficial is it for people to know?
Socrates once made a man filter what he was about to say through those 3 gates but after the man said no to all 3 tests, Socrates responded: "If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell me at all?"
Control your emotions. Don't let them control you.
I understand. It's really difficult to keep things to ourselves especially when emotions are heightened. Here's the thing about emotions—they make or break you. There's a reason why emotions are manipulated by both those in power or those who want power: emotions are a powerful force.
Don't get me wrong, influencing the way people feel for a noble cause—such as bringing communities together—is a GOOD THING. When emotions are channeled the right way; it is like clay and can be used for construction. When channeled the wrong way; it is like a wildfire that destroys everything in its path.
In varying degrees, everyone is guilty of either hurting or spreading negativity through their words, whether it is intentional or unintentional. We are imperfect beings and the process of rectifying our actions take a lifetime of mistakes and repentance but what we CAN do is to minimise the damage. Practise self-control and if you've made a mistake, correct it. Delete it. Apologise. Explain yourself.
Imam Al-Ghazali advises us to guard the tongue* against 8 things:
- Breaking promises
- Invoking evil towards others
- Ridiculing and mocking others
*Although Al-Ghazali mentions the tongue: in this day and age, our speech can be conveyed through our fingertips i.e. technology and social media.
There is wisdom behind silence
In an increasingly expressive world, silence is not given its due credit. I'm not saying we should remain silent all the time (i.e. in the face of injustice we should speak out) but keeping silent when we are not certain of whether our words hold any value not only prevents us from hurting or spreading untruth, it also teaches us the art of listening and learning from observation. Many arguments are created when we listen with the intention to argue instead of listening to understand.
To those who feel pressured to post or say something all the time: relax. It's OK to think hard before saying something. In fact, it's the wiser thing to do. Don't ever feel like you need to start spewing out opinions on everything just because everyone else is; you can choose to observe and learn from what people are saying instead.
Perhaps, what others say aren't accurate and you can verify what they are saying and expand your knowledge in the process. Gather opinions, observe and learn. There is a reason why people say 'silence is golden.'
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet ﷺ said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent."
In the court of Allāh, your words can be used against you so choose wisely.