147. Consider what you ought to say, and not what you think.
Publius here has a strong message, especially in today’s day and age of, “tell the truth, all the time; whatever you are feeling at this moment must be right.” The West is obsessed with Romanticism — the primacy of the individual is front and center, cultures and traditions are nothing, and we should all be able to say and do what we feel at all times. Anything less would be oppression. Right?
But has the pendulum swung too far?
It seems to me that there is a place for tradition. For putting the wants and needs of the individual second to that of the community. For being prudent when speaking, and considering others and the situation before blurting out whatever has come to mind.
Let’s have a look at a few quick examples of the last point — when prudence in speech should outweigh our seemingly unquenchable thirst for individual liberty to express ourselves.
- Creativity — What if a friend shows you a painting, or plays you a song, that you really don’t like? Well, just tell them of course! After all, you’re only being “honest!” NO — you are more likely being a brat. Do you know everything that went into that work? Are you really being mindful and nonjudgmentally looking at the piece or listening to the track? Do you have no ulterior motive in being critical of their work? If you can’t honestly answer all of these questions, you don’t have any solid ground on which to stand when you appeal to honesty, because you are not even able to be honest with yourself. Let alone with another.
- Fashion — What if a significant other shows tries on a dress that you don’t find attractive? It isn’t sexy, it doesn’t accentuate their curves, and the colors are hideous. “Honey, how do I look?” Mmmmmmmm… This is another case where blurting out whatever has come to mind is not prudent. Instead, consider what outcomes would be desirable? Perhaps, “nice, but the dress is too flowy for hibachi,” or, “intriguing, but I know that shade of crimson will look brownish under the weird blue lights they use.” In both cases, you have planted a seed of doubt as to whether this is the right choice for tonight’s affair (while deflecting the reason to something outside of your control and having the perceptiveness to point it out ahead of time).
- Cooking — What if you’re visiting relatives for dinner, and the food isn’t great? Sure, go ahead and let them know. You’re only being “real.” Again, no. What are you really going to do, change this adult’s perspective on food? More likely you’ll offend them or hurt their feelings. Both pointless. Pick your way through it the best you can until your plate is clean enough to be cleared. In other words, don’t be a spoiled brat. Show some respect, even if it means suffering through a bad meal. Anyone can show dignity when it is easy — it takes character to do so when it is hard.
We looked at a handful of examples where considering what we say before we say it would be prudent. We aren’t being untruthful — we are considering others before we submit to every feeling and whim that we experience.
And who knows, perhaps we would have enjoyed the music or the cooking if we had been in a different mood? Maybe the problem is — ghasp — us. And by having a less high opinion of ourselves and our ability to objectively critique everything which passes into our consciousness, we can act with more consideration and empathy towards others, while keeping ourself out of harm’s way.
Until next time,
It would be prudent to actually read a book before forming an opinion of it — a rarer and rarer feat these days, it would appear.