The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Self-defense

March 18, 2020

We have examined many ways in which servant leaders need to learn to be silent. But the most difficult time to remain silent is when we are personally attacked or accused of doing wrong. When this happens, our natural response is to defend ourselves, often loudly! Self-defense is often considered a universal human right. But when Jesus was on trial, He modeled a very different way.

59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”  62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God”(Matthew 26:59-63). Jesus’ ability to remain silent in this situation is remarkable and has much to teach us about the power of silence in self-defense.

Silence in self-defense reveals humility. Jesus’ silence revealed a deep humility. The accusation they made against Him was a misrepresentation of what He had said in John 2:19. Surely Jesus would set the record straight! But He humbly remained silent, refusing to defend Himself.

Proud people argue their case, they defend themselves loudly. They cannot accept any accusation that makes them look bad whether they are right or not. But servant leaders demonstrate humility as they remain silent when wrongly accused.

Silence in self-defense reflects confidence. Jesus demonstrated remarkable confidence with His silence. He didn’t need to argue about His identity as the Messiah. He did not need to defend who He was. He knew who He was. His silence shouted that He had nothing to prove.

Silence in self-defense speaks more loudly than shouting and arguing. It reveals a deep confidence that I don’t need to prove I am right; I know I am right. Sometimes the strongest sound is silence. Servant leaders express confidence by keeping quiet when accused.

Silence in self-defense requires trust in God. The silence of Jesus while on trial shows that His trust was not in any human verdict that would condemn or release Him. He knew that only God would determine His destiny. Peter, only a few moments after Jesus’ silence, would vigorously defend himself (see Matthew 26:69-75). But years later as he recalled Jesus’ death said, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).Jesus’ silence influenced Peter who now challenges us to follow the example of Jesus.

Leaders who trust in themselves need to speak loudly and persuasively in self-defense. But leaders who trust in God’s judgment can quietly wait for His verdict. Servant leaders express trust in God when they remain silent in self-defense.

Is there ever a time to for a leader to speak up when accused? Jesus, right after this silence, was commanded by the high priest to speak. At that point He calmly spoke the truth about His identity. There are times when it is right to speak in defense of truth on our own behalf. But servant leaders only use this right after they have learned the painful discipline of silence. They cry out to God for wisdom to know when to speak and when to influence through silence.

Silent leadership speaks loudly in self-defense! Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Am I humble enough to be quiet when wrongly accused? What is it within me that rises to defend myself?
  • In what life situations have I kept quiet and simply trusted God to determine the outcomes? What was the result? If I have not done this, is there a current situation in which I should follow Jesus by keeping quiet?
  • In what situations is it good for me to share a verbal defense of my actions? How do I know when it is the right time to talk and when to keep silent? What do I need to do before opening my mouth?
  • Is there a difference between defending myself and defending others who are falsely accused? How do I determine the difference?

In the next series, we’ll look at choosing leaders God’s way.

The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Persuasion

March 4, 2020

Leaders influence others by persuasion. They can convince others to follow their vision, to support the cause, and to be a part of the team. Almost always, we try to persuade others with words, often strong or loud words that end with exclamation marks! But sometimes the greatest influence to persuade comes in silence!

Peter instructs wives who have unbelieving husbands, Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (1 Peter 3:1-2).

In this situation, the husband does not agree with the beliefs of the wife. The wife’s desire is to persuade the husband of the truth she knows. We might advise her to construct well-developed arguments about the existence of God and the need for salvation, and to present them boldly. But Peter advises her to be silent! The silence, combined with godly behavior, would win the husband “without words.” Servant leaders learn the power of persuasion with silence.

Silent persuasion reveals respect. Peter encourages the wives to submit “without words.” Loud arguments would show disrespect and drive the husband away. But quietly living out her life and not pushing him to agree, shows her respect for him as a person.

Good leaders show respect to others, especially those with whom they disagree. They show respect for the other, sometimes by simply continuing the relationship without constant reminders of the disagreement. They recognize that respect will open the door to influence.

Servant leaders often show respect by their silence. They allow God time and space to work in the lives of the other person. Sometimes that time and space changes their own position! Servant leaders recognize the power of respect to persuade through silence.

Silent persuasion invites a closer look. “They will see the purity and reverence of your lives…” The silence of the wife would allow the husband to see! Silence invites the husband to turn his head and see what his wife is doing, thinking or expressing without words. Words encourage people to look at our mouth or to look away; silence encourages them to turn and look more closely.

Leaders model the way before they proclaim the way. They allow their lives to encourage followers to take a closer look. Servant leaders influence through silence as they encourage a closer look.

Silent persuasion transforms hearts. The silence of the wife, coupled with consistently good behavior, could “win over” the heart of the husband. The husband expects confrontation and arguments from her. If she argues, he will respond in the same way and likely win the battle! But instead. he finds only silent “purity and reverence.” The silence is unexpected and has tremendous power. In the end, the power of silence breaks his resistance and he accepts the position of his wife.

Servant leaders learn, especially when there is disagreement, that silence has power to persuade. Servant leaders acknowledge that while God can use their words to bring change, He can likewise use their silence to transform the heart of another. Servant leaders sometimes influence through silence and they see God transform hearts.

Certainly, there are many situations in which leaders are called to share their opinions and have healthy, genuine debate on an issue. But there are also times when leaders would do well to take the advice of Peter and lead with silence. Servant leaders cry out to God for the wisdom to know when they should persuade with words, and when silence is the right approach.

Servant leaders learn that silent leadership speaks loudly in persuasion! They move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How do I show respect to those who disagree with me? Is my respect ever expressed in silence? Are there times when my silence would be disrespectful?
  • Does my life encourage people to lean in and look more closely, or to move away from my arguments? What is the result in my leadership?
  • Am I in a difficult relationship now which has strong disagreements? If I practice silence, would it allow God to change the heart of the other person? What might silence also do to my own heart?
  • In what way do the principles of this passage to wives with unbelieving husbands apply to all relationships? In what ways might these verses not apply to others? How can we know when to be silent and when it is right to speak?
  • Is there a way that silence can become a weapon to fight instead of a tool to influence? Or is there a difference between refusing to talk and choosing to be silent?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.

In the next issue, we’ll examine the sound of silent leadership…in self-defense.