My mama taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”
I guess in this incidence, I followed her advice, at least in the verbal sense. Nothing exited my lips. However, I did communicate.
My mama had a way with her looks as well. She could communicate with her eyes. The narrowing and piercing stare had a way of communicating her message. Nothing had to be verbally spoken yet the message was sent and received. This would happen in the grocery store when my siblings and I would run amuck; or during church, when her head would turn toward me and with her eyes on me, my mouth would shut and my body would still.
I think I inherited that gene and I exercised it not so long ago.
It wasn’t toward one of my own children. In fact, the look wasn’t shot toward a child at all. I was communicating with a grown woman, who should have known better. If her mama had been my mama….but again, I digress.
This all happened while standing in a warehouse book sale.
Sounds travel well through this building and there is always a steady volume of noise.
On this particular day, a loud cry from a small child rose above the steady clamor of noise.
My initial thought was: “Been there, done that…had those moments!” And then a feeling of “Glad that’s not me.” along with, “Poor mom…and that child is just not happy for whatever reason.” In my mind, grace extended toward the mom and child.
But in that same moment, the woman next to me loudly exclaimed, “What kind of person brings a baby to a book sale?” to which her friend replied, “A stupid person!”…followed by laughter from both of them.
My head and body spun toward them and my mother’s voice spoke in my head, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”
For sure, I had no kind words, nothing edify or uplifting for these two standing there.
No verbal words were spoken, but my eye-staring gene kicked in and my posture conveyed the message swarming like a beehive in my head. As one of the ladies caught my stare, her chuckle stopped and she sheepishly looked down, turned and walked away silently.
I wish I could say, “HA…I told her.” but I didn’t really. I could have said something to get my point across without being spiteful towards her. Some might say she deserved a “What for”, which as a mother, I can give them…believe me!!
But as I have pondered over this for a few weeks, I can’t quite put my finger on how I should feel or what I should say about this or if I should say anything at all. Yet this thing happens quite often.
We live in a judgmental, critical culture. As a people, we have this self-justifying attitude of being able to speak our mind, whenever, however and to whomever we feel needs it.
It’s subtle and pervasive.
- the lady at the book sale
- people without kids commenting, “My kids will never act like that...” until of course, they have their own and then eyes are opened and wisdom is born.
- Even this morning, the commentators ripping apart the ladies at the CMA awards last night for the dresses they chose to wear.
By speaking our minds without reserve or thought, we no longer reveal wisdom to others, but instead, we reveal our own lack of wisdom and grace to others. Most of the time when an opinion is shared, it is not addressed to the person involved, or spoken in love, or private. It is shared and published to all through social media and beyond. “Vomit on the screen”, some like to say.
Our unkind words and opinions do not show-off grace. Instead, they speak more of our inability to practice grace.
Another lesson I learned from my mama, and a discipline I have tried to practice in my own life is from a poster hanging in her kitchen. It simply said:
Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Before we hit “Post”, “Tweet” or “Publish”…before we open our mouth to speak… let us first answer these questions, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”
May these words of my mouth and these meditations of my heart, be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14