Many of us are familiar with the expression, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," or some variant of it.
We grow up hearing it and, in turn, we pass it on to our children. But it's more than just a saying. It means something — something most have forgotten.
It's easy to forget how powerful words can be. They slip out so quickly and thoughtlessly that, most of the time, we don't give what we say a second thought after we say it. We don't generally give much thought to whether it was "nice." We don't follow that maxim, and there are several reasons for that.
In the instantaneous world of texting and instant messaging, conversations follow more a stream of consciousness type of format than a calculated, informed one. We type what we're thinking as it comes into our minds. We don't stop to think about what we want to say like we would if we were writing an old-fashioned letter or even an email. And, partially because of that, we've trained our minds to react instantly.
It's true — humans have always had the proverbial foot-in-mouth syndrome. We act first and ask questions later. And modern technology has only enhanced this tendency. It's easier than ever to follow our mind's stream of thought straight to the keyboard — or straight out of our mouths — rather than carefully craft our words to fit the situation and audience before us.
But while we'll always be prone to stupidity and random acts of foolishness, we can also make it so that we don't fall prey to the instantaneous world around us. We can choose to think more and react less. Instead of just repeating that age-old maxim, we can actually follow it, live by it and hold ourselves accountable to it. After all, it isn't just a saying. It's a way of life. One we've forgotten all too easily.