Speaking Ill

To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves; let us be above such transparent egotism. If you can’t say good and encouraging things, say nothing. Nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a clever thing to say.

Will Durant

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13 comments on “Speaking Ill

  1. Eumaeus says:

    Aye, brother. But tis hard sometimes. Even the best of us are full of habit energies that work against our better selves. But all the bad stuff too needs to unfold and fall away. Here is Franklin too: “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

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    • Bill says:

      It’s good advice and it’s been around for at least 3,000 years. The way it was taught to me was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

      I’ve found that advice to be reliably sound, even though I’ve often failed to follow it.

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  2. Joanna says:

    In one sense I wholeheartedly agree and yet in another I don’t. I live in a society that is used to keeping quiet, because that is perhaps the prudent thing to do under a despotic regime such as the Soviet system. Unfortunately even now people chose to keep quiet even if they see corruption, so I think the Franklin quote is more appropriate at times, as that urges caution but not total silence. I agree with the sentiment of the quote above though, we shouldn’t bad mouth people for the sake of it, we need to choose our words carefully and be a blessing to those around us, not a gossiping busybody.

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    • jubilare says:

      Aye, this. Silence about abuse did enough damage in a past generation of my family that two people died and one was left orphaned. In other instances in my experience, it’s been necessary to call a spade a spade. Sometimes evil has to be called by name in order to be fought.

      But the quote makes an excellent point. The bad-mouthing, put-downs, and bullying come from a place of putting others down in order to feel better about ourselves. We’re probably all guilty of doing that, at least a little, and it’s destructive.

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      • Bill says:

        I didn’t take this to suggest we shouldn’t call out injustice, report crimes or abuse or anything like that. I just took him to be saying (as many others have) that sometimes it’s better to stay quiet than to speak ill of others. The bit about putting down others being a dishonest way of praising ourselves I found to be an interesting observation.

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      • jubilare says:

        Yes, I think the calling out of disguised egoism is insightful.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m sure Mr. Durant wasn’t suggesting staying quiet when confronted with injustice, but rather was referring to gossip, insults, ridicule and the like. At least that’s how I took it.

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      • Joanna says:

        That’s how I took it too. That’s why I agreed and disagreed. I’m full of contradictions like that. I see the other side too readily at times 😀

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, the old adage about “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is so not true. I’ve known words from a single conversation that have broken relationships for decades. Some times the relationship is never repaired and if it is, then the relationship is never the same as it was. Words have power. They can crush a person in a single phrase or sentence. They can lift up and encourage some one that is depressed. The souls of mankind crave encouragement, love, and acceptance. All of these are accomplished through words. The power of words can build up a person or tear them down. So many people don’t realize the power of destruction that can be in harsh words. Another adage is “The pen is mightier than the sword.” In my humble opinion spoken words are even mightier than written words.

    Relationships and conversations today are so different than decades ago. So much communication has been lost with the advent of media. Words alone loose 97% of the communication experience. Tonal voice such as laughing or saying phrases with different voice inflections are 40% conversations. Body language is a huge 53%. Words are only 7% of the communication process.

    So yeah, some words should never be spoken and die in the sea of unspoken words. Better yet the mind should be renewed to never consider saying the harsh hurtful words. I’m not saying I’ve achieved this and am far from it but it’s my goal to get better at it.

    Have a great speaking encouraging words day.

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    • Bill says:

      I agree Dave. Better to have a mind that doesn’t generate hurtful thoughts about others. At a minimum, when those thoughts happen, better to keep them to ourselves.

      I need to get better at this too of course. It annoys me to see insults pass so often for humor and commentary in our society.

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    • I love this blog – it is one of my favorites and I look forward to reading it every day – especially the the comments – but I have to say I REALLY look forward to reading your comments NebraskaDave. You and Bill always expand my mind and brighten my day, and I thank you both for that.

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  4. Tina Schell says:

    Such a simple thought and yet so many have such difficulty with it! Great reminder today Bill!

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks. There have been plenty of times when the right (and clever) thing for me to have said was nothing, rather than the words I chose. It’s a reminder for me too.

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