The desert fathers saw themselves on a journey toward God in heaven. They made some assumptions that drove them to seek solitude and practice silence. The first is that discipline transforms us. I think this is true. I’m trying to develop the discipline of physical exercise to improve my balance and general physical health. It is hard, but I can see that it is working. The second assumption is that silence moves us closer to heaven and away from earth.
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:10-11 ESV)
The easiest way for me to pursue Peter’s instruction is to move away from people, away from community. If there is no one to talk to or talk about, then I will be less tempted to speak evil. If I’m not attempting to compete for position within the community I’ll have no reason to speak lies to make myself look better than I really am. There is no question that if I desire peace, I will move away from people. I don’t think that is really what Peter has in mind.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14-16 ESV)
Instead, Peter wants us to be people who are ready to speak. Yes, the tongue is difficult to control, but how do we learn to use it well if we put ourselves in a situation where we don’t use it at all. We are on a journey toward God and we need to hear Him speak. I’m confident that we would be better off with fewer words in our lives. I’m equally confident that we need words and that we need to speak.
James instruction to be quick to hear and slow to speak probably summarizes best what we need to do.