Sometimes What You Should Say is Nothing

It was spring, 2010. I was at Pasadena City College with Justice for All. I was standing inside the barricades protecting the large 18-foot-tall pro-life display. It was a quiet hour on campus. Most students were in class.

I saw her coming from a block away.

She was with her friend “Michelle,” and they were storming toward me. She locked eyes with me long before she got to me. I could tell from her expression that she was angry. I braced myself.

“Jessica” was yelling at me before she even got to the barricade. She was strongly pro-choice. She hated our exhibit. I think she hated me, too, at least at first. Her friend didn’t say a word for the next half-hour. She was just there for moral support.

As Jessica ranted about how ridiculous anti-abortion people are, dropping pro-choice slogans throughout, I did something that our new pro-life volunteers were confused by: I said nothing.

I listened to Jessica. But I didn’t just listen to her. I heard her.

And there was a lot to hear. Jessica had good reasons for being so angry at men. Growing up, her step-father had abused her. Her story is tragic.

Listening to Jessica. Sometimes what you should say is nothing

Listening to Jessica. There’s a reason I look sad in this picture.
Photo credit: Justice For All. Used with permission.

So I listened to her, even though some of the accusations she leveled at me were untrue and unfair.

Sure, I jumped in when she made a statement about how all pro-lifers want to kill abortionists. I put my hands up and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I really need to tell you that that isn’t true. Everybody you see here has signed a statement of peace that says they are opposed to all abortion-related violence, including against the people who do abortions. There’s a difference between the pro-life movement and a few woefully misguided nut-jobs.”

Generally speaking, I didn’t respond to her arguments. Instead, I remembered what we teach at Justice For All trainings: “Wisdom is knowing what to say when, and when to keep your mouth shut.”

Jessica didn’t need someone to debate her that day. She needed someone to love her.


If you actually listen to understand and genuinely care about the people you talk to, you’re going to realize that there are times when you should stop debating abortion and focus solely on caring for the person in front of you.

I chose not to debate Jessica. Instead, I showed sympathy to her through my body language and saying things like, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” and, “That is so horrible.” By taking the time to connect with her, I was able to show genuine compassion, demonstrating that I cared about Jessica as a person, not just a potential convert.

Eventually, she was able to tell that I cared about her, and she warmed up to me. As our dialogue was ending a guy came up selling expensive chocolate bars for a fundraiser and she offered to buy me one! She had settled down and was no longer accusing me of being an “anti-choice pig.”

When you’re having a dialogue about abortion, do you really care about the person you’re talking to? Or do you just care about the unborn? I think we need to do both. Not just because you’ll be more persuasive by showing love to people, but because Jesus told us we should love others.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should spend two minutes reading my brother’s pro-life interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, you should read it every time you’re about to debate the person who wrote that pro-choice statement under your pro-life Facebook post. I guarantee you will see better results.

The post “Sometimes What You Should Say is Nothing” originally appeared at JoshBrahm.comClick here to subscribe via email and get exclusive access to a FREE MP3 of Josh Brahm’s speech, “Nine Faulty Pro-Life Arguments and Tactics.”


Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh has worked in the pro-life movement since he was 18. A sought-after speaker, Josh has spoken for more than 23,000 people in six countries and in 22 of the 50 states.

Josh’s primary passion is helping pro-life people to be more persuasive when they communicate with pro-choice people. That means ditching faulty rhetoric and tactics and embracing arguments that hold up under philosophical scrutiny.

He has publicly debated leaders from Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Georgians for Choice, and one of the leading abortion facilities in Atlanta.

Josh also wants to bring relational apologetics to the pro-life movement. “Some pro-choice people will not change their mind after one conversation on a college campus. Some of them will only change their mind after dozens of conversations with a person they trust in the context of friendship.”

Josh is formerly the host of a globally-heard podcast turned radio/TV show, Life Report. He now hosts the Equipped for Life Podcast. He’s also written dozens of articles for and the ERI blog.

He directed the first 40 Days for Life campaign in Fresno, resulting in up to 60 lives saved.

Josh has been happily married to his wife, Hannah, for 15 years. They have three sons, Noah, William, and Eli. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

David Bereit, the National Director of 40 Days for Life, sums up Josh’s expertise this way: “Josh Brahm is one of the brightest, most articulate, and innovative people in the pro-life movement. His cutting-edge work is helping people think more clearly, communicate more effectively, and — most importantly — be better ambassadors for Christ. I wholeheartedly endorse Josh’s work, and I encourage you to join me in following Josh and getting involved in his work today!”

Please note: The goal of the comments section on this blog is simply and unambiguously to promote productive dialogue. We reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, disrespectful, flagrantly uncharitable, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy.