In Bambi, Thumper quoted his parents’ wise words, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” This quote echoed the words I heard from my own mother, my neighbors, my coaches and my teachers.
Yet, in my experience now, these are not guiding principles for many. My teenage daughters come home from working in fast food with daily stories of how patrons call them idiots as they try to clarify customer orders or how they are cursed at for a mistake. Chicken, waffle fries and sweet tea should not cause such angry outbursts.
These bursts, however, are becoming common place in public and on the internet. Gotcha moments, sound bites, tweets, memes. We have become predators watching and waiting to pounce on our prey with a witty comeback or a tongue lashing. We seek to rip, shred and destroy our perceived enemy.
We bear the scars as individuals, families, communities and as a nation. We must challenge ourselves to do better. We must challenge ourselves to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander. We must challenge ourselves to be advocates for healing and not agents of division. We must challenge ourselves to speak truth using words of strength, encouragement and kindness, rather than communicating our opinions with meanness, foul and abusive language.
We must challenge ourselves, our community, and our leaders at all levels of government to speak in such a way that reinforces our shared humanity and communicates empathy and unity.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all. But better yet, let us make a commitment to work together, to be compassionate and to build positive solutions in a complicated world.