“…don’t say anything at all.”
This may be the best advice parents give to kids, and the advice most ignored by the parents who give it. Ostensibly we tell this to our children because we know it’s not polite to say negative things about others. The wisest among us also realize that saying negative things about others actually hurts the person who says them, and we don’t want our children to hurt themselves.
So why is it that we ignore advice which will keep us in good standing with others and will stop us from diminishing our spiritual well-being? As I reflect upon the times I ignored this advice it occurs to me that I felt entitled to say negative things about other people. I had been hurt and was resentful about something, and I felt like I was owed the right to complain. But here’s what’s funny: The right which I felt I was owed (saying negative things about others) could only hurt my relationships with others and damage my spiritual health. It’s like feeling entitled to cancer or mental illness!
Logically it would make sense in those situations when I’ve been hurt emotionally to want to follow a course of action that leads to healing. Negativity and resentments are not healing, and responding to emotional hurt in these ways only leads to more hurt…for me…it’s completely illogical.
When I’ve been hurt emotionally I should forgive and allow God’s healing power into my heart rather than spew negativity about the person who hurt me. (Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”)
When I’m tempted to start tearing others down I should remember: That course of action can only hurt my relationship with God. (Leviticus 19:14: “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God.”)
The next time I feel entitled to verbally lash out in response to emotional pain I need to remember that everyone I know was made in God’s image and has the potential to become a child of God. (James 3:9: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”)
The next time you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, I hope you’ll consider not saying anything at all.