Today I am going to teach you something very important.
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
In my experience, no one ever means that. I think it is actually something more like this:
“If you can’t think of something nice to say, make something up.”
I can talk about this because I have not had anything nice to say to some people and have, per Thumper’s wisdom, not said anything at all… for several months.
This doesn’t really work though. Because then people think you’re a jerk, even though you’re trying to hold your tongue explicitly so people don’t think you’re a jerk.
So what do you do then? What do you do when you seriously CANNOT think of anything nice to say?!
As one of my favorite authors Anne Lamott said, “If you want to change the way you feel about people, you have to change the way you treat them.”
So I said, Annie, dear? Leave me alone.
However, what she says is true. I’m trying to change the way I feel about people, so Robin and I pray for them before we go to sleep. I pray that I will be a gracious person and no longer wish car troubles and bad hair days on those people. I pray that God will help me look more like this….
And less like this….
And I pray that I will learn to be more like Jesus by truly forgiving. Forgiveness is the essence of the Gospel. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole “good news” part about it- that we’re not condemned on what we do and don’t do anymore.
In Greek mythology, there is this idea of the tragic flaw. Basically, it’s the character defect that causes the downfall of the protagonist (to quote dictionary.com) For most people it’s like pride, or whatever. For me, it’s being hyper-empathetic. I discussed this in the bitterness post, it’s where we get so amped about defending people that we can have bitterness towards someone who hasn’t even personally wronged us.
Generally, I empathize with the underdog. I shake my little paw in fury at the big dogs who make them feel bad about themselves. And this is all good and fine until I am confronted with the truth that everyone has a little underdog in them. Even the big dogs act the way they do to protect that yappy little weakness inside that they’re afraid will get out and pee on the carpet.
So, I’m trying to seek out people’s inner underdog, and I’m trying to empathize with that little weak, lovable part of them until the rest follows. And I'll try and find something nice- and true- to say.