Knowing When to Stay Silent and When to Speak Up

In a society that is becoming increasingly polarized, simple conversations can quickly become minefields. Disagreements can easily turn to hostility and speaking up on certain subjects can have negative effects on relationships and even employment. So how can we know when it is better to stay silent, and when it is our duty to speak up?

Patrick Madrid recently addressed this topic, when a listener called in to The Patrick Madrid Show and explained that the recent Supreme Court decision has made her nervous. She shared that she is disabled, and so she understands how important it is to do away with discrimination in the workplace. But she is also a Catholic, and doesn’t agree with the language of the Court’s decision.

“I’m sitting here paranoid about what people at work might ask me about this,” she told Patrick. “The only thing I can say is, ‘You know what, I’m just here to work.’ And I wondered if that would be an appropriate response.”

Patrick told her, “I guess I would answer your question this way. You’re not obligated to fight the culture wars. Especially if you’re in a situation where if you open your mouth and say something contrary to what the Twitter mob thinks is correct that you could lose your job, lose your livelihood, lose your health insurance, etc.”

“So you might feel like saying something, but prudence might dictate that you just don’t say anything,” he acknowledged. “That’s certainly okay.”

Patrick pointed to the example of St. Thomas More, saying, “St. Thomas More was the chancellor [of England]. He was like the number two man in the realm. And his way of dealing with this was he didn’t say anything.”

“He just said nothing. He didn’t share his personal convictions until it got to the point where he had to,” Patrick explained. “So silence was his defense. He didn’t condone what Henry was doing. In fact, his silence was speaking volumes that he condemned what Henry was doing, but he never actually said it.”

Of course, for St. Thomas More it did get to the point where King Henry VIII forced him to speak up.

“At that point he couldn’t shelter behind silence anymore,” Patrick pointed out. “So he did say what he felt and that’s when he got his head chopped off. But for the time being, I would encourage you to shelter in place when it comes to this kind of thing for as long as you can.”

Following that call another listener called in and asked Patrick for clarification. Was he saying that we shouldn’t speak up unless we’re forced to? Patrick explained that not every person and not every situation is going to be the same, and different people may be called to different things.

“We all should pray,” he told the caller. “Some people, like the lady I just spoke to, it may be better for them not to speak up and get their head chopped off. Some of us are going to be speaking up publicly. I’m trying to do that today. The fundamental thing is speak the truth in love. Speak the truth in love. Sometimes it’s difficult to do that, but that’s what I think is the best advice that I can give.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.