Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Silence Isn't Always Golden

We were taught it early and have heard it a million times since: if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. Simple enough. Seemingly harmless enough. But what about those times when you could say something nice, yet choose to stay silent?

I was reminded of that recently while watching a reality show reunion and was astounded over the number of mindless, senseless arguments that had reached explosive level when a simple "I'm sorry"; "I hear you"; or "I understand" could have been extended and peace could have been restored. There was monologue after monologue of one person having the courage to tell another "You hurt me..." and, sadly, all that was returned was a blank stare. Or, if an apology was uttered, it was done with such disregard, it almost demanded a second apology.

Now, we're all smart enough to know the "powers that be" encourage some of this type of behavior on reality TV for the sake of ratings, but in the absence of cameras and within our every day reality, are we displaying just as selfish behavior? And if so, why? Do we feel we're giving away our power by offering someone else the grace that we need each and every day? Or, by even accepting an apology from someone else, do we feel that in some way we're telling the other person that what they did to us is okay? Neither. 

As Iyanla Vanzant often states, forgiveness isn't synonymous with acceptance; it's a freeing. And is often more for the one that offers it than for the one who receives it. Apologies set us and, thus, others free: free to be human; free to learn and grow; free to understand and be understood; free to embrace how to better treat one another; free to exhale. Things we should all be striving for daily.

However, withholding forgiveness is not the only way we keep ourselves stuck with silence. Unfortunately, another all too common culprit is withholding praise. Just like gray is the new black, silence seems to becoming the new "hate." That inability to say "great job"; "I'm so proud of you"; or "girl, you are wearing that dress" is a silence that is often deafening and, sadly, has even taken a comfortable seat among friends. For somewhere along the way, many of us have let our insecurities convince us that in celebrating another, we're diminishing our own shine. When in fact, being able to give that to another only makes one shine brighter and illuminates everything in their presence. Just as Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit," we must ask ourselves, are we using our words to uplift? Are we using our words to offer forgiveness? Or are we being negative or purposely keeping silent and missing opportunities to change a life or brighten someone's day? The choice is always ours and the reaping will be also. What we give to world will come back. It's up to us to decide what we're creating and, thus, giving "permission" to be returned.

As the revered Saint Francis of Assisi once said, "For it is in giving that we receive." Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it. Talk to a friend who could benefit from a kind word? Give it. See someone in the elevator who looks like they could stand a compliment? Offer it. I guarantee when you start to give these "gifts" to others, your joy and blessings will be multiplied and returned to you as well. So be blessed...and be a blessing.