I wish to speak no more

子曰:「予欲無言!」子貢曰:「子如不言,則小子何述焉?」子曰:「天何言哉!四時行焉,百物生焉,天何言哉?」
Confucius said: “I wish to speak no more.” Zigong said: “Master, if you don’t speak, how will your disciples be able to pass on any of your teachings?” Confucius said: “Does Heaven speak? The four seasons turn and all the creatures continue to be born, but does Heaven speak?”

I can’t help wondering if Zigong breathed a huge inward sigh of relief when Confucius told him he didn’t wish to speak anymore, even though he was obligated to attempt to persuade him to continue spouting his words of wisdom.

Of course, Confucius isn’t promising to stop speaking at all. He’s making the much more profound point that actions speak much louder than words and that his disciples could learn much more by simply observing him than listening to him sound off.

This idea is probably even more apposite today than in Confucius’s time given the huge volumes of noise we produce and are bombarded with. The next time you feel compelled to speak just to be heard, why not take a few seconds to remind yourself that in most cases it’s better to say nothing at all.

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