To be read: February 7, June 7, October 9
The eleventh step of humility is, that, when a monk speaks, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and seriously, with few and sensible words, without raising his voice, 61as it is written: “The wise man is known by his few words.”
As noted yesterday, Benedict has a three step process for restraint of speech. Today’s verses represent the third in that three step process. He gives a quick rundown of the type of speech acceptable for a monk. He says, a monk will “speak gently and without laughter, humbly and seriously, with few and sensible words, without raising his voice…” This is sound advice for any Christian. As it says in Proverbs 15, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). Seldom will a harsh word or a voice raised in anger accomplish good in a relationship. Gentleness in speech opens opportunity for discussion and dialog where hearts as well as ears can hear.
It is also wise advice, given in verse 61, to refrain from abundance of words. Too many of us suffer from verbal diarrhea—we love to hear ourselves talk. There is also a common tendency to verbally dance around a topic rather than zero in and come to the heart of the matter at hand. This is particularly true in the south. We like to schmooze, to tell stories, illustrate our message. But as Benedict declares, “The wise man is known by his few words.” The words attributed to Jesus in Acts that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” could be applied to the gift of listening. It is more blessed to give an open ear—to listen—than to talk endlessly.
May we learn to speak “with few and sensible words, without raising our voices.”