Think before you speak! Advice most would agree is a good idea.
Unfortunately it is advice that like many, I have ignored on more than a few occasions. The results can be wide-ranging, anywhere from not a big deal to being life changing. And if it you are saying something without really thinking about it, the changes to your life are most likely not going to be something you will look back on without regret.
Today, with social media and the ability to instantly share everything that pops into our head with everyone in the world, it is easier than ever to say or write something that a nanosecond later we realize we really shouldn’t be sharing. But even if we do actually recognize our mistake it is too late. Once the Tweet is out, the comment is posted, the picture is emailed to a trusted friend, the witty comment is over heard by someone or picked up by a hot mic, our world can be turned upside down. And why? Because we just didn’t think.
So what am I doing? Yep, telling everyone exactly what I think. Working in the media for almost 40 years and living life from longer than that, I have had a lot of time to think about how something I say or write can be and has been used to help and uplift others or to be hurtful and cause needless pain for not only others but just an importantly for myself. Maybe as I get older I’m just slower, I would like to think that with experience I have matured and become wise enough to hold onto a thought long enough to do at least a quick self edit before enthralling everyone with my latest thought. But it is a challenge.
If we can’t take the hint from our own moments of regretful pontificating then surely we can learn from others who have ended a friendship, career, marriage or been humiliated beyond belief by an innocent utterance. Or not so innocent in some cases. Even if we do run thoughts through our brains the way we should we can still do the wrong thing. Take for example the tech savvy television host who accidentally let the TV camera pick up text messages to his very special friend. Bad enough we had to see he had written, “come over. I’m naked in bed. waiting for you…”, creating an image I really didn’t want to think about. His soon to be ex-wife probably wasn’t to thrilled either.
We probably are too easily offended today, if we never uttered a word that someone could take umbrage with, the sound of silence would truly be golden. But I don’t believe that means we shouldn’t give a whit about how others will react to what we have to say. Thoughtfulness and kindness are traits I still admire as virtues and I do think less of someone who constantly speaks without seeming to have actually given serious consideration to what they are saying.
It is not necessary to be politically correct. It is not necessary to be in agreement. But to be civil should not be too much to ask. It has been said many times that the level of discourse in our country and from what I have seen in most of the world, is in the gutter flowing toward the sewer. If you read comments on websites for just about any subject it doesn’t take long for the posts to devolve into name calling nonsense. It is a train wreck and i admit I do look. But it is for research.
If you want to take sides I do think that politically, one side is worse than the other. But I read comments from people on the far right and far left and all points in between and there is much of which to be ashamed. I have learned a great deal from reading comments from those with whom I disagree. When I then read comments from those on my side of the argument I can see, even though I might agree with them, it is not the way to influence people to come over to your side.
Think. It isn’t really all that painful. It can even be pleasurable to hold your tongue long enough to see you were about to make a fool of yourself and then be able to enjoy the relief when you realize you just avoided one of those embarrassing moments. In many things, quality is superior to quantity. I would rather be a man of few words and let those words have value. It would also make me happier and wiser if others would also do a little more thinking and a little less talking.