A Tahoe packed to the top, with suitcases and ski gear, is where I first heard one of the most profound and best pieces of advice.
We were on our way to the Canadian Rockies and had begged my father-in-law to come along with us. His wife of 63 years had died two years earlier and we felt like it was time for him to live again.
He seemed quite excited when the trip first started, riding shotgun in the big SUV, but after several hours on the road he was silent. I’m sitting way in the very back, third seat on the right, and I’m thinking his silence is not a good sign. I’m wondering if maybe he’s sad or even sorry that he let us talk him into this long trip. So, never at a loss for words myself, I decide to ask.
He quickly responds:
“The less I say, the less I have to give account for.”
Well…WOW…that shoved some more silence right across the great expanse of seats. It was followed by nervous laughter as our minds raced back over all our conversations. If you are religious or consider yourself spiritual, you might recognize some biblical implications. But if not, let me just venture to speculate how this one little quote could be a life changing piece of advice for all of us.
Let’s see…the less I say…what, like when I’m angry? Well, sometimes, when I’m upset I say things that are mean or hurtful, frequently using words that are somewhat short of factual, words like always or never. And, in the end, if I choose to make amends, I must apologize. Thus, I have been held accountable.
Okay, then, what about the less I say when I have a new rumor in my repertoire of words? I really try not to, but maybe you know how hard it can be not to pass on word of friction in the family, a fight among friends, or perchance a real dramatic tale all discreetly disguised in a prayer request. The less I say, the sooner the talk dies down. Or, what if I’m wrong and I’m found guilty of spreading gossip? There will, by all means, be an accounting.
And then there is the less I say about my son who, at age thirteen, completely recoils when he hears his mother gearing up for a full-blown play-by-play of something funny he did or something he said. He didn’t seem to mind his life being put on display for the amusement of friends, family or total strangers when he was a toddler…not even as a young boy. But now, for some reason, at age thirteen, he seems to want ME to be seen and not heard. Wait, isn’t this backwards? I thought that’s what MY parents said about KIDS. Now, for some reason what I say frequently leads to “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” thus an accounting of the most painful parenting type.
Let’s see… “The less I say, the less I have to give account for.” It is a new day and a new age where words aren’t just out there in the spoken variety. Now you can engage in a rapid email response, tap out a text, fib on Facebook, blab on your Blackberry or even become irate on your iPhone. Sometimes you slide by and no one takes offense…but. more times than I care to count, at least in my own life, I’ve paid a price for the lack of wisdom in my words.
Almost every day I think to myself “I wish I hadn’t said that.” But every day since that eye-opening encounter, I move a little bit closer to saying less!
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”
Proverbs 21:23 (NAS)
Do you ever wish you could take back what you just said
or the words you just sent?
Log back in on Valentine’s Day for LOVE of course. 🙂
Comments on: "The Less I Say" (3)
Wow, how appropriate this is to my life at this moment. Having a 15 year old who is navigating his way through the trials of high school and plain ole teenagerdom, I seem to let my words fly out more so without the filter I used to have. When my sweet boy was young it was easier to hold my tongue as he seemed physically more tender. I forget easily as my 5’10” 175 lb. son errs in his ways that he is just as tender as he was when he was small so I find myself saying things that I so wish I hadn’t. We do have to “jerk a knot in their tail” every so often, but of late I seem to be talking louder and with more “passion” than necessary. So, again Annette, thank you for your words. ‘The less I say’ maybe the more I can ponder the right thing to say at the right time – full of love and guidance vs. anger. That is the way I can be the mentor and role model my son really needs.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln
Annette – Thank you for reminding me to hold my tongue – appreciate silence – and listen without judgement.
Oh the daily reminder to rein in my tongue!!! 🙂