why vs what we do-1Have you done that?  Bit your tongue just to keep from saying something because silence is a wiser choice? It’s hard… right?

We wrestle with feeling justified in our thoughts and feelings and almost compelled to make them known, especially in moments of tension, argument or when we are false accused.  It is uncomfortable to remain silent at times.

So why?  Why choose to bit your tongue and not share the thoughts  flying through your heat like a tilt a whirl?

Answer:  The relationship is more important than the relief we will feel by speaking our mind.

I call this “the deeper yes.” – it means choosing important over the urgent or feel good option of the moment.

It’s hard and uncomfortable most of the time.  But usually the wiser and more loving choice!  Whenever we put the relationships, the end result, the bigger picture first , we take a huge step towards creating better relationships.

Part of my work, as The Better Relationship Coach, is helping people create a better relationship with God. Twice a year, during the seasons of Lent and Advent, I write about my faith on a daily instead of weekly basis.  No matter what your faith is, the following lesson remains relevant.

Yesterday we read about Jesus being silent before his accusers.

He is totally in the right.  He is being falsely accused and beaten… and he didn’t do anything wrong!  He has the power to not only prove how wrong his accuser are but to wipe them out with a word. And yet, Jesus remains silent.

However today  She Reads Truth is talks about Jesus  speaking up and answering Pilot’s questions about the same issue.

This puzzles me -sometimes Jesus speaks up and tells folks like it is, when they point fingers and level accusations and other times he remains silent in very similar situations.

Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a formula for when to bite our tongue and remain silent or when to speak up?

  • In situations A, B & C it is “right” to speak up, defend, explain
  • In situations 1, 2, or 3, it is “right” to remain silent.

A formula equips us to know what to do.  We can learn, master and “get it right”  when we have a formula of “always do this, and never do that!”

But, what we do isn’t the point, why we do it is the deeper question.

In general, I think we have a default mode:  fighters speak up, flighters tend to remain quiet – but often this choice is not made based on what is best for the relationships, but rather what is more comfortable for us.

I am a fighter: quick to reply or retort with:

  • “let me tell you like it is,”
  • “here are the facts you got wrong,”
  • “what are you talking about.”

Explaining, making something perfectly clear and speaking up is my knee jerk reaction.

How about you?

Do you: speak up and defend yourself, when it is wiser to remain silent?


Maybe you are more of a flighter and stay silent when you should be speaking up.

I believe that what we do is rarely as important as why we do it.

Instead of a formula, it’s all about the why, the bigger picture, the relationship. When we step back from the moment- from our need to get it right, or find some relief – we gain perspective.

Now…why we are speaking or biting our tongue becomes the criteria for assessing our actions.  No formula, all heart!

Lots of time people ask me:

  • “Is this right or wrong?”
  • “Just tell me what to do, I just want to get it right,”
  •  Even “What would Jesus do?”

And they are usually unhappy with my answer of “It depends…Why would you do/not do and say/not say it?”

Jesus’ actions and words were always governed by a bigger purpose and plan that revolved around relationships.

When we are in a heated moment, being falsely accused,  questioned or  misunderstood we can choose how to respond based on what is best for the relationship in the long run.

Is it hard.  yep!  Is it worth it… you bet!

This week try focusing on why you do  instead of what you do in order to create better relationships. And let me know how it goes!

Have you ever stepped back and viewed a difficult conversation or moment from the perspective of what is best or most important for this relationship in the long run? 

What your knee jerk reaction did  you refrain from- speaking up or remaining silent- and what was the impact of your choice?


6 Responses to “When biting your tongue is the best idea!”

  1. Linda

    Fight, flight or standing still. As I see it, we have three, not two choices.

    Fight is the first inclination, especially if you are being attacked.
    Flight is what you do when fight doesn’t look promising, even if you think you are right.
    Standing still gives you time to sift through the ego stuff, avoid a beating and think before reacting.
    Sometimes standing still looks like flight simply because it isn’t fight.
    I keep Henry Ford’s (among others) admonishment in mind: ‘Never complain, never explain.’ The follow on is ‘Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.’

    • Susie Miller

      Hmmmm… I had to think about this one because I am a fighter first and alot of the time the standing still in my world looks alot like flight. As I have gotten older, and mellowed a bit, I see the standing still in the flight-looking moments and even stand still myself more often!

      I like this third option…it fits my both/and (rather than being either/or) perspective. Standing still as you describe would be the best option in most situations as long as it was standing still, contemplative strength, pondering the best response for the moment…. (Jesus did that alot) – but it must be from a heart or courage and love not the fear that leads to flight masacarading as standing still… I guess it all comes down to the “why” we do it, rather than the what.
      Flight, Fight or stand still out of wisdom and love vs self protection – does that make sense??

      definitely a discussion that I would enjoy continuing. Again, your wisdom and perspective are much appreciated and enjoyed!!

  2. Jen

    Oh Susie, today’s blog couldn’t have spoken to me more. It was one of those nights when I got home from work my daughter decided bake something after school( which equates to a mess). I have 30 minutes before I have to pick my other daughter up from soccer make Dinner and get my oldest off to physical therapy. My husband on the couch sleeping I slip into mental mode, nostrils flaring ,dishes clanging and then we scarf down dinner I rush to get my daughter off to her activity and I intentionally decided this was my time … So I sat in the car decided I was going to read your passage then I get a text from my sister in law about our summer plans and and a message still brewing from my mother in law about a birthday ideas for my daughter. I wanted to “zing” those messages to my husband… “See what all I have to deal with, this is your family you handle this.” So since I only got half way through your passage I did forward the text from my SIL but gently said I received this from your sister” and I thought about it a little.,. ” the relationship… Think about the relationship” and instead of being snotty I also sent him the message from his mom with a note that was a hell of a lot nicer than what I was thinking. ” the relationship” I was honestly trying to take a step back rationalize …how he would receive the messages with the words I wanted to use…I took a deep breath and decided to bite my tongue. It was a bit of snowball type evening, they don’t know their timing was not good… sometimes I think I need to tell him that his family shouldn’t be my responsibility but let’s face it ideas for gifts, summer plans he is not going to know that. I have taken a big step back already but then I just feel guilty at times. If have to bite my tongue or continue to not speak up, am I really doing us any favors?

    • Susie Miller

      Jen, what a great response.. so honest and open about what was going on in your heart and mind! I sooo appreciate you for sharing this. Honestly the hardest thing is to figure out why we do what we do.. then the what makes more sense.
      Are you doing them favors? maybe. why are you not speaking up – widsom, fear, avoidance? For me it always comes back to the why. (don’t read that as I get it right, I have slammed more than a few pots in my time!) I think we want a formula- always do this.. never do that… because then we wouldn’t need to be in constant communication with God asking for guidance in these situations.
      For the good girl who never raised her voice or argued with her husband or kids- pot slamming may actually be repentant! For someone like me who is quick to speak up, sometimes unwisely… silence and forbearance would be more in line with repentance. I think we want relief more than we want to be righteous at times and that is what guides our actions. Does that make sense?
      Think about the why and tell me your thoughts.

      • Jen

        Susie, thanks for your response. I thought about the why and this is it. I was always the quiet one, peacemaker, never wanting to upset or disappoint my family members, when I grew up and had kids of my own the pleasing got to be too much, consuming too much of my energy, things were said that I didn’t like and I was secretly mad inside.., to this day I feel secretly mad inside about certain things that I can’t seem to find the way to express myself without disappointing someone. It has manifested into creating walls, smiling when I really want to say your crazy!!!, and distancing myself to the point I sometimes feel lonely. How do I get there? How do I I shed the cocoon of what my story is and how I got here when it comes to truly being in relationship. How do I learn to speak up with godly gentleness and be ok with others disappointment in me. It is hard, mate uncomfortable is a better way.

        • Susie Miller

          Jen, I hear you…
          We will disappoint people when we are true to ourselves. That can’t be the criteria or we will live in fear and become a pretzel trying to make sure no one is disappointed or upset. I have tried the pretzel route- it stinks! Let’s chat soon!


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