Saying Nothing, The Thirty-Ninth Week in the Second Year of the New Abnormal

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  That was a common idiom of our mother’s lexicon.   She lived true to that statement.  Even when she attempted to comment on something she disapproved of, she did her best to soften it.  As a teen, I often was asked the question, “Janet, do you think that’s the most complementary outfit?“  Or it could have been make-up, pants, hair style or any other appearance-related observation.  As a sensitive teen I was crushed no matter how much she tried to say it diplomatically.   

I was not mature enough or confident enough to understand that we were separated by a generation, and our aesthetic tastes were informed by those differences.  Nor did I appreciate that even when well-intended, a critique said in the most unobtrusively terms, can still be judgmental.

I learned that the hard way.  I followed in my mother’s footsteps, not saying anything that wasn’t nice, but Larry and Alex, my husband and son, let me know that my expressions have screamed disapproval.  So, though, “don’t say anything if you don’t have anything nice to say” is step one in being thoughtful, it by no means is enough.  

I have had to learn to listen and see things from their point of view.  I may be able to see that what they say or do isn’t right for me, but it is not my place to judge what is right for them, or anyone else, for that matter.  

We’d all do better to focus on ourselves and what we can do to live our lives as best we can rather than determine how others should be living their lives.  Whether we cast aspersions on others out loud or via facial expressions and body language, we are only indicating that we, ourselves, are intolerant or judgmental. And that is never a pretty look for anyone.    

Self-Care Tips:

  • When you hear something that sparks negative feelings within you, do your best to set them aside as you listen to the other person so you can appreciate their perspective on choices they are making.  You might learn something helpful rather than be reactionary, which usually changes nothing. 
  • I suggest watching the docuseries Chimp Empire. On Netflix, if you have it  It’s a relaxing view, while still creating a nice level of drama in the chimpanzees’ lives.  
  • Since we are our own worst critics, see if you’re able to bring kindness and compassion when you’re feel critical of yourself, and do your best not to criticize yourself for not being kind enough.