Shut the Heck Up!

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” ~Will Rogers~

Many of you probably don’t remember Will Rogers. In fact, unless you’re nearly a hundred years old, you can’t possibly remember him. He died in a plane crash in 1935—fifteen years before I was born. Rogers was a well-known humorist and respected by his peers.

I feel like I remember him, but in actuality, I remember his memory. I saw a biographical movie of his life once (one in which his son, Will Rogers, Jr., played him). My Mom used to talk about the things he said, and I think I read some of his stuff early on.

I’m pretty sure all this was emblazoned on my mind by the scene in the movie that depicts him boarding the airplane for his last ride. The camera zeroes in on his face as he peers out the tiny window of the passenger plane. The look on his face was haunting. He had a woefully sad look that made it seem like he knew he’d never see anyone again—and, of course, he didn’t. His son did a great job portraying that expression (whether it actually happened that way or not). I still remember that face. Although he was a humorist, I picture him as a melancholy figure because of that scene.

“You could have fooled me.”

There is some dispute about whether he actually said those words, but they seem to fit with many of the other things we know he said. It’s that kind of remark that made him famous. Even if he didn’t say it, you could have fooled me.

Anyway, just think about that maxim. “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” It has always struck me as a wise adage—regardless of who originally said it. In our day of social media, twenty-four-hour news commentary, and endless debate on just about everything, we seem to hold to a motto that reflects just the opposite sentiment. Our thought process seems to be based on a philosophy that could be summed up this way. “Never miss a good chance to shoot off your mouth.”

“Calmed and Quieted”

Although the Apostle Paul once told Timothy to “be prepared in season and out of season” to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2), Scripture generally sides with the wisdom of Will Rogers. More than one verse spells out the virtues of keeping quiet. The psalmist of Psalm 131, for example, tells us that he has “calmed and quieted” himself (V 2). Several of the proverbs are laden with advice to keep one’s mouth shut. Proverbs 17:28 tells us that, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent…”

As someone who has been paid much of my life to speak, it might seem out of place for me to even bring this up. Still, I find it wise to hold my tongue much of the time. I also find that when I do run into trouble, it often stems from shooting from the hip. Thank you, Will Rogers.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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