Shrinking violet


by Christine Berglund

I am a loudmouth. There, I’ve said it. Are you surprised? Let me rephrase that. I AM A LOUDMOUTH.

This has not always been the case. Inside, I consider myself a “shrinking violet.” I don’t wonder where that phrase came from. Violets are so demure and understated that it’s easy to miss them, as if they shrink into the landscape.

The best place for “viola sororia,” the common violet, is in a lawn. They tend to overpopulate if they are allowed to grow in cultivated soil. In the lawn, they blend well all year with the rest of the green plants, unless you are one of those hard-working people who actually want only grass. Broadleaf weedkillers can kill beneficial insects, so I don’t use it. So my large lawn stays rather weedy, to accommodate the honeybees, lizards and turtles that might happen to pass through.

One of the great things about a natural lawn is the nice little surprises practically all year, whenever a lone violet decides to shyly open a pretty purple flower head. Don’t be fooled by the rhyme “violets are blue.” Violets are purple. Nothing rhymes with purple, though!

Back to my mouth. It used to be shy and quiet, but no more. There are things that need to be said, and I have decided long ago that if my vocalizing can do some good, I’m willing to be used.

There are certainly occasions when silence is golden, but it is not true all the time.

We, like Ezekiel, must sometimes act as a “watchman on the wall” to warn others of impending danger. Our silence at such a time can be devastating.

“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me” (Ezekiel 33:7, NASB

We reach for that “gentle and quiet spirit” of 1 Peter 3:4 at all times. Is it possible to have a spirit that is gentle and quiet, but still provide a clarion call to righteousness? If God commands both, then it must not only be possible, but necessary!

In fact, it’s that quiet spirit within that tempers the words that come — sometimes loudly — out of our mouths. “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34).

We must not be silent when there is danger. If a crowded building were on fire, would you slip quietly out while others were unaware of the flames? This is what it must look like to God as he watches us live our quiet lives as others die spiritually.

Please don’t misunderstand; we are not to be loudmouthed, self-righteous Pharisees wielding the Bible as a bludgeon. “Speaking the truth in love” *(Ephesians 4:15) is always the method that is the best, and the most effective. Again, the words are filtered by what is in our own hearts; in this case, love.

Jesus gave the perfect example of this. His words, though always kind, were also to the point. Some were so pointed that his hearers killed him.

The violets will soon be appearing in our lawns and in our gardens. As they surprise and delight us with their shy and gentle form and color, we’re thankful that they are not used as traffic lights or as guardrails along the road. They wouldn’t be big enough nor loud enough. Quietness has its place, but not everywhere.

While you cultivate a meek and quiet spirit, don’t be a shrinking violet. Speak up about God!

One Reply to “Shrinking violet”

  1. Good article, Christine. Speaking out is a brave thing to do, and needs to be cultivated with discretion. If I speak out about something I think amoral, I’m often told I’m ‘judgmental’ among other things. Perhaps it’s my lack of tact, and goodness knows I’ve not lived a perfect life, but it bothers me that even people who consider themselves practicing Christians have an accept-all, speak-nothing-against-anything attitude.

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