Say something good


“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I have the utmost confidence that all of us have either heard or uttered some variation of this phrase at some point in our lives. While the grammatical integrity of the statement is suspect, the personal integrity it encourages is above reproach.

Generally, when the phrase is utilized in conversation, it will be directly preceded by “My grandma/mom always used to tell me …” You may or may not know these words of wisdom came not from some wise-sage matriarch but from an animated rabbit. The phrase comes from the Disney movie “Bambi.”

After making a critical comment about the movie’s title character, the young bunny Thumper is asked what his father told him that morning, at which point he recites the aforementioned phrase. It turns out the phrase is actually known as “Thumper’s Rule.” It’s a rule of which we need reminded early and often in our current cultural climate.

It’s undeniable that saying nothing is better than saying something that is unnecessarily unkind, abrasive and/or offensive. As a pastor, I am perfectly aware there are times and places when and where we must speak inconvenient and uncomfortable truths. I am also very aware we use the need to “be real” and to “speak the truth in love” as validations for speaking ungracious words in unhelpful ways.

Many times, we would be wise to keep our thoughts to ourselves. I wonder, however, if at times our silence doesn’t speak volumes. Are there really so few nice things to say that we can’t come up with something?

I think part of the problem is we have developed a bad habit of defaulting to the derogatory. We have become so polarized that any time we’re in a conversation and we come to a point of divergence, we immediately begin assigning various categorical labels to those with whom we are speaking.

Many of us have decided it’s just too dangerous to engage in the discussion, whatever it may be. Dangerous because of what may be said to us and what we may say to others, so we opt for silence.

But I believe the silence is not helping to heal our communities. Perhaps it simply provides another means of marginalizing those with whom we don’t agree and communicating what we think of them in a socially acceptable manner.

One of my colleagues here at First Baptist has a saying he often shares. He likes to say, “You never go wrong when you say something encouraging.”

While the defensive, combative side of me wants to say that’s too soft, I think he might be right. In all honesty, our world could use a little more softness. Rather than the indifference of silence, our world could use the sound of gracious, compassionate kindness.

In Ephesians 4:29-32, the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen … Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another.”

These verses draw all of the principles I’m presenting into one nice, neat little package. We are encouraged to silence the harsh and harmful words that so easily come to mind, but we are also to speak words of encouragement in an effort to help meet the needs of others. We are to take care not to speak with bitterness, anger and untrue assumptions. Rather, we are to let kindness, compassion and forgiveness guide our treatment of others.

I am fully aware there are times when silence is the best we can do, but we should seek to do better. If we want to see healing in our homes, communities and the world at large, we cannot content ourselves with silence that is at best indifferent and at worst condescending. We must learn to speak encouragement to one another. It’s not enough to not say something bad. We need to remember to say something good.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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