My mom use to quote Bambi frequently with the “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”…  And, it always came after I’d opened my mouth with something everyone could have lived without my having said…  I would like to be able to add that I didn’t ever do that after I grew up, but no chance of that!  I mean, I don’t go out of my way to be unkind, yet I can and have been misunderstood as an adult!  So that leads to the importance of choosing words carefully and knowing well, the person we’re talking to.

My plan, after being hammered hard a few years ago when I was misunderstood, is to say less especially when I’m talking to someone I don’t know well or haven’t seen in a very long time (as people change and have painful experiences, that have happened in my absence).  Making conversation can be very difficult for some of us…  And that’s why this advice is really a wonderful thing…  Say less:  Hubby told me the first year we were married, that if I just ask questions most people will think you an amazing conversationalist, because people love to talk about themselves… They may never get around to asking about you, but you can’t screw up a conversation by listening.  Turns out, he is correct!  Plus, listening offers you a chance to know people in different ways.  And, the thing is, if you listen long enough they may even tell you the family secrets, so be prepared to stop them if you know ya can’t keep secrets!  (Just sayin’… )

Now, saying good things?  I’ve learned that you’ll know!  It will come over you like thunder and rain, it will spill out of your mouth with the perfect words in just the right order, and once you’ve said it, you’ll wonder how that ever came out of your mouth.  My take is that the Holy Spirit steps in and leads you to speak those excellent words…  We say something that God led us to say.  I’ve had moments like that, and I really do figure that I’m not at all brilliant enough to have thought up what popped out of my mouth; I wallow in wonder at the good those words did for someone who really needed them!  Case closed on that.

But saying the wrong thing…  And, sorry to say I’ve done it…  My best offer is to apologize and ask forgiveness, which I do.  Forgiveness of the person offended, forgiveness of God, and then forgive yourself for having done it… Because we are all human!  I say in prayer every night, “Forgive me those sins known and unknown to me, said and left unsaid, done and left undone… I am sorry.”  It is never my goal to make anyone unhappy and I doubt that it is for others.  Forgiving and seeking forgiveness  has been very valuable practice, and I pass that on to you.  That said, always remember that when someone can’t forgive you, it’s usually because there is something within him/herself that they themselves can’t forgive (that is, something which existed long before you came into the picture), or else they don’t know you and don’t want to try to know you… They don’t love you and can’t take the high road in forgiveness.  And, it might follow that the person who can’t forgive needs our good thoughts and prayers, for they are in trouble. Enough said!

May this be a day in which we say all the right things and remain silent when needed.


Carolyn Thomas Temple