I nearly spit out my drink when I heard the country song lyrics while working. It’s not as if the concept is new. The lyrics were simply a bit more direct than the advice I’d often been told when I was young: “If you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I knew why I had an instant reaction. I’d recently had a conversation with someone who had purposefully not said what she was thinking, remembering the same advice we’d both been told. But then the person asked her directly, “What do you think…?” Well, if you ask…
It’s especially hard when we know someone wants affirmation, as if he or she is fishing for compliments and attention when the truth is not what the person wants to hear.
But whether or not someone asks, we have to decide how to handle the situation.
There are times when what we have to say isn’t necessarily what someone wants to hear. It might be a bit confrontational, but it is truthful and potentially helpful. What is truth is not always comfortable – for the deliverer or receiver. Even when we attempt to deliver it with kindness and compassion.
Our culture can be harsh and rationalize that we’re simply “speaking the truth,” or we can hide behind the curtain of what we think is kindness. But maybe we need to adjust the advice a bit.
“If you don’t have something to say that God would say, think again before you open your mouth.” Or, “open your mind before you open your mouth.”
That might be a bit challenging. We’ll likely never completely accomplish it in our lifetime, but it’s worth a try.