When to Speak Up… Or Not

I should have said something.

I shouldn’t have said what I said.

Should I say what I’m really thinking?

Am I the right person to speak up?

When to speak up and when to be quiet is something I wrestle with fairly often. Whether it’s in meetings, over emails, responding to something someone said, offering my input on a decision, or even offering constructive criticism, I regularly find my asking if/when I should say something, and then looking back and wondering if it was the right call.

Several years ago I was in the middle of a season of wrestling over how to approach a very difficult situation. During lunch with a great friend who is a brilliant lawyer in Washington D.C. (and also a gifted musician and worship leader), he gave me some advice that he had once received. It was really helpful.

Here’s what he said:

A friend of mine used to quote another minister as saying that a “divine idea” was “the right people doing the right things at the right time in the right way.”  You have to have all of those elements for it to be a God-thing.

You might have a clear sense of what is needed in some situation or someone’s life, but you might not be the right person to share that with them, or to intervene.

Or you might be the right person to help someone, but it might be the wrong time.

Or you might be the right person and the right time, but if you get the solution wrong or carry it out in an insensitive way, it can be unproductive or even cause damage to a relationship.

I have said some really stupid things and ended up complicating matters more often that I’d like to admit. This has happened when I’ve been a volunteer, part-time, and full-time worship leader.

When I speak up, my prayer is that it is a “God thing”, not a “Jamie thing”. I’m learning to take my friend’s advice, and before I speak up, I ask God: (1) am I the right person? (2) Is this the right thing to say? (3) Is this the right time to say it? (4) Am I saying it in the right way?

If God seems to be saying “yes” to all four questions: then I’ll speak up. If he seems to be saying “no” to any of them, then if I’m smart, I’ll be quiet. And wait. And pray.

God’s timing is perfect. Mine is not. And this is a lesson I will be learning for the rest of my life.

14 thoughts on “When to Speak Up… Or Not

  1. Mike Druckenmiller Sr. August 12, 2014 / 9:41 am

    Good Word. I just want to encourage your heart today brother. There are *very* few folks I post to my Facebook or Yahoo Group without first reading them thoroughly. Yours is one of them. Thank You!

  2. Michael Dean August 12, 2014 / 10:52 am

    What a divine truth. A few years ago I memorized it this way, “a wise man withholds knowledge” (Proverbs 12:23a) Here it is a several other verses as well:

    1 Cor 8:1 About food offered to idols: We know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.
    Ecc 8:7b a [there is a] time to be silent and a time to speak
    Proverbs 17:27 The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding.
    Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.

    Oh the pain I could have saved the world if I had understood this earlier in my life. Thanks for the word of truth.

  3. Judith Stokes August 12, 2014 / 8:40 pm

    Wise words to pass on, Jamie. How’s it going?

  4. Brian Carpenter August 13, 2014 / 2:29 pm

    The only issue here is all of the advice in the actual article is subjective. How do we know is God really telling us yes, to speak or no, not to speak? I think the best we can hope for is meditate on those Bible verses that address this topic and try to apply them to every situation the best we can and just trust the results to God’s grace and mercy. E.g. I have said things in the wrong manner and yet God used my words to help someone, other times I said things in what I strongly believed were in the right manner and the end results were underwhelming. Nevertheless, the advice were good, particularly the not being the right person advice. That I will need to ponder. I like to add that the younger we are, the less we should speak, and the older we are, the more we should speak. Just a general principle that I think is wise to follow.

  5. George D August 14, 2014 / 7:32 am

    Here’s another acronym that’s helpful (not original with me):
    T.H.I.N.K., which stands for these considerations:
    T — is it true?
    H — is is helpful?
    I — is it instructive (or some say, inspiring)?
    N — is it necessary?
    K — is it kind?

  6. cathytownley August 18, 2014 / 8:52 am

    Just read your article on invitational worship leading. Using it in a class I am teaching on line on How to Increase Worship Attendance in Your Church. I have some vids on youtube on missional worship and a book by the same name. Have you done any vids that I can get out there to people?

    • Jamie Brown August 18, 2014 / 10:47 am

      Hi Cathy. Other than some guitar tutorial videos on YouTube (on the “Worthily Magnify” channel), most of my stuff is in written form. I’m glad you’ve found some of it to be helpful in your class!

      • cathytownley August 18, 2014 / 11:05 am

        Please keep me on your mailing list.

  7. Mark September 4, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    I agree with the poster who noted this is sooo subjective. “IF God SEEMS to be saying to me…” How is that really helpful? I’d recommend Gary Gilley’s book “Is that You Lord?” for good information on the commonly held view that God speaks directly to us as this blog post talks about. He will really challenge your thinking on this. Give it a try!

  8. Eric Perry January 1, 2015 / 11:40 am

    Great encouragement to start the new year. This is something that will bless- not only relationships in the church, but more importantly in my marriage! Putting this into practice will help me to lovingly and gently lead my wife and kids.

    Thanks Jamie and Happy New Year!

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