Speak It Out
J. R. Miller
No doubt there is a duty of silence. There are times when silence is golden. But there is also a duty of speech. There are times when silence is sin. There are times when it is both ungrateful and disloyal to God—not to speak of his love and goodness, or witness before men in strong, unequivocal words.
We ought to speak out the messages given us for others. God puts something into the heart of every one of his creatures, that he would have that creature utter. He puts into the star, a message of light; you look up into the heavens at night, and it tells you its secret. Who knows what a blessing a star may be to a weary traveler who finds his way by it, or to the sick man lying by his window, and in his sleeplessness looking up at the glimmering point of light in the calm, deep heavens? God gives to a flower, a message of beauty and sweetness, and for its brief life it tells out its message to all who can read it. Who can count up the good even a flower may do, as it blooms in the garden or as it is carried into a sick-room or into the cheerless chamber of poverty?
Especially does God give to every human soul a message to deliver. To one it is some revealing of science. A great astronomer spoke of himself as thinking over God's thought after him, as he traced out the paths of the stars. To the poet God gives thoughts of beauty which he is to speak to the world; and the world is richer, sweeter, and better for hearing his message. We do not realize how much we owe to the men and women who along the centuries, have given forth their songs of hope, cheer, comfort, and inspiration.
We cannot all write poems or hymns, or compose books which will bless men; but if we live near the heart of Christ, there is not one of us into whose ear he will not whisper some fragment of truth, some revealing of grace or love, or to whom he will not give some new experience of comfort in sorrow, some new glimpse of glory. Each friend of Christ, living close to him, learns something from him, and of him, which no one ever has learned before, which he is to forth tell to the world.
Each one should speak out, therefore, his own message. If it be only a single word, it will yet bless the earth. If one of the flowers that bloom in summer days in the fields and gardens had refused to bloom, hiding its little gift of beauty—the world would be poorer and less lovely. If but one of the myriad stars in the heavens had refused to shine, keeping its little beam locked in its breast—the nights would be a little darker than they are. And any human life that fails to hear its message and learn its lesson, or fails to speak it out, keeping it locked in the silence of the heart—leaves this earth a little poorer. But every life, even the lowliest, that learns of God and then speaks out its message, adds something to the world's blessing and beauty.
We ought to speak our heart's joy. There is something very strange in the tendency, which seems so common in human lives, to hide the joy—and tell the misery. Anyone who will keep an account of what people he meets say to him, will probably find that a large proportion of them will say little that is pleasant and happy, and much that is dreary and sad. They will tell him of their bodily aches, pains, and infirmities. They will complain bitterly of the heat if it is warm—or of the chill if it is cold. They will speak of the discouragements in their business, the hardships in their occupation, the troubles in their various duties, and all the manifold miseries, real or imagined, that have fallen to their lot. But they will have very little to say of their prosperities, their health, their three good meals a day, their encouragements, favors, friendships, and manifold blessings.
Yet it is of this latter class of experiences that the world ought to hear the most. There is no command in the Bible which says we should empty the tale of all our woes into people's ears. It would be far sweeter service if we were to speak only of the pleasant things. And there always is something pleasant even in the most cheerless circumstances, if only we have an eye to find it.
There is a legend that says that once Jesus and his disciples, as they journeyed, saw a dead dog lying by the wayside. The disciples showed disgust and loathing—but the Master said, "what beautiful teeth the creature has!" The legend has its lesson for us. Miss Muloch tells of a gentleman and a lady in a lumberyard, by a dirty, foul-smelling ruin. The lady said, "How good the pine boards smell!" "Pine boards!" exclaimed her companion. "Just smell this foul ruin!" "No, thank you," the lady replied; "I prefer to smell the pine boards." She was wiser than he. It is far better for us to find the sweetness that is in the air than the foulness. It is better, also, to talk to others of the smell of pine boards, than of the heavy odors of stagnant ruins.
There is a large field of opportunities for saying good to others. Many people seem too dilatory of words of encouragement. They have the kindly thoughts in their hearts—but they do not utter them. Of course, there are things in many a heart, which had better not be expressed. There are silences which are better than speech. We should never speak harsh, uncharitable, hurtful words, which will only give needless pain, break hearts, and sunder friendships, and which can never be unsaid. It is bad enough in ill-temper, to have even bitter thoughts of others, of our friends, of any who bear God's image—but it is far worse to let such thoughts find utterance! Then the injury done is irreparable.
But we should never fail to speak out kindly thoughts and feelings. Some people seem to think that the utterance of complimentary words, however well deserved, is weak, sentimental, and unworthy. But it is not, if the things said are sincere and altogether true. Others fail to recognize the value of cheerful, hopeful words—and do not understand that it is worth while to speak them. The truth is, however, that words of encouragement, of inspiration, of cheer—are better ofttimes than angels' visits to those to whom they are spoken. We ought not to withhold that which is in our power to give without cost, and which will so richly bless hungry hearts and weary spirits.
Your neighbor is in sorrow. It is known for days and days that a loved one is hovering between life and death. Then the crape on the door announces that death has conquered, that the home is darkened. You want to help—but you shrink from intruding upon the sorrow. With a heart full of affectionate longing to be of use—you yet do nothing. Is there no way by which your brotherly love might make your neighbor's load a little lighter or his heart a little stronger? Are we not too timid in the presence of other's sorrows? God wants us all to be true comforters. Sorrow is very sacred, and we must enter its sanctuary with reverence. But we must beware that we do not fail in affection's duty, in the hour when our brother's heart is broken. The tenderest sympathy locked up in the heart, avails no more than if our heart were cold.
Perhaps it is in our homes that the lesson is most needed. There is a great deal of sweet love there, which never finds expression. We keep sad silences ofttimes with those who are dearest to us, even when their hearts are crying out for sympathetic words. In many homes that lack rich and deep happiness, it is not more love that is needed—but the flowing out of the love in little words, acts, and expressions. A husband loves his wife, and would give his life for her; but there are days and days that he never tells her so, nor reveals the sweet truth to her by any sign or token. The wife loves her husband with warm, faithful affection; but she has fallen into the habit of making no demonstration, saying nothing about her love; going through the home life almost as if there were no love in her heart. No wonder husbands and wives drift apart in such homes. Hearts, too, need their daily bread, and starve and die if it is withheld from them.
There are parents who make the same mistake with their children. They love them—but they do not reveal their love. They allow it to be taken for granted. After infancy passes, they quietly drop out of their fellowship with their children—all tenderness, all caresses and marks of fondness. On the first intimation of danger of any kind, their love reveals itself in anxious solicitude and prompt efforts to help—but in the daily life of the home, there is no show of tenderness. The love is unquestioned—but, like the vase of ointment unbroken, it sends out no perfume. The home life may be free from all bitterness, all that is unloving and unkind—and yet it has sore lack. It is not in what is done that the secret of the lack of happiness must be sought—but in what is not done.
It is not enough to love—the love must find expression. We must do it, too, before it is too late. Some people wait until the need is past, and then come up with their laggard sympathy. When the neighbor is well again, they call to say how sorry they are he has been so sick. Would not a kindly inquiry at the door, or a few flowers sent to his room where he was ill, have been a fitter and more adequate expression of brotherly interest? When a man without their help has gotten through his long battle with business difficulties or embarrassments, and is well on his feet again—then they come with their congratulations. Would it not have been better if they had proved their care for him in some way when he needed strong practical sympathy? The time to show our friendship is when our friend is under the shadow of enmity, when evil tongues misrepresent him—and not when he has gotten vindication and stands honored.
There are those, too, who wait until death has come, before they begin to speak their words of appreciation and commendation. There are many who say their first truly generous words of others, beside their coffins. They bring their flowers then, although they never gave a flower when their friends were living. Many a person goes down in defeat, under life's burdens, unhelped, uncheered, and when the eyes are close and the hands folded, then comes, too late—love enough to have turned the battle and given victory, had it come a little earlier.
Life is hard for many people, and we have no right to withhold any word, or touch or act of love, which will lighten the load or cheer the heart of any fellow-struggler. The best use we can make of our life is to live so that we shall be a blessing to everyone we meet. Then we shall make at least one little spot on this earth more sweet and beautiful, and shall leave a few flowers blooming in the desert when we are gone.