Spiritual Exercise – 4. Measure

Measured speech is neither pithy (witticism) nor voluminous (garrulity). Measured speech is the expression of, or accompaniment to, the virtue of temperance. Let us transform ourselves.

Ask yourself,

  • Do I tend to blurt things out? Why is that? Why can’t I seem to hold my tongue?
  • I think I have to ‘say my piece,’ but do I have to? Does my voice ‘have to be heard’? Always or only in certain circumstances?
  • Am I repeating myself? Have I said any of these things today or recently: ‘Again,’ ‘To reiterate,’ ‘Not to repeat myself, but…’, ‘Just to be clear–‘, ‘Let me remind you….’ If so, why? Am I concerned that the other won’t understand me? Do I assume that no one can understand me? 
  • Am I trying to sound overly clever? Have I said too little or in the wrong way? Is the other baffled or injured, and have I said what I said in this fashion with a clear purpose? Why? Do I think it licit to be cruel?
  • What stands in the way of my speaking, as it were, in haikus? Remember Rochefoucald: ‘Eloquence is saying the right thing and only the right thing.’ The qualifier only is highly significant. A good sentence needn’t be long or unduly complicated. The best get to the point.
  • What of decorum? It used to help us see when something could be said but would nevertheless be inappropriate to say, e.g., in these circumstances.
  • What keeps me from spending more of my time in silence? Could I change the ‘default setting’ from speaking to being quiet? Could I get rid of the chatter or, if not, then minimize it? Could speech be as rare and true as Nature’s voice, as beautiful as desert flowers?