“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Before acting, I ponder this phrase taught to me by my mother years ago. If whatever I am about to say or do does not fit the framework of “something nice,” I simply refrain from putting it out to the world. This second look has stopped me from doing a lot of things I know I would have regretted.
“When anger rises, think of the consequences,” Confucius said.
Instead of always saying what is on your mind, simply take a moment to consider if what you are about to say is necessary, important or nice. If it does not fit into one of these categories, perhaps rethink your actions. It is much easier to take a breath and not speak from a place of hate than to try and fix the problem after causing hurt.
In today’s technological age, nothing can be undone or unsaid. With that level of permanence in front of such a widespread audience, we should err on the side of caution and choose to not post our every passing thought on the Internet. This is especially relevant for celebrities and those in the public eye.
Roseanne Barr’s recent Twitter scandal is a perfect example. Barr posted a reportedly racist comment regarding Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to Barack Obama.
Despite her defenses that it was just a bad joke or that she was under the influence of sleep medication, Barr’s reputation and career are likely forever marred.
A Japanese proverb states, “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.”
As a response to the tweet, the ABC network canceled her show, which put hundreds of people out of a job. All of this could have been avoided if she had taken another moment to carefully consider her words before she posted them.
Barr is not the first celebrity to have such a public misstep. Comedian Kathy Griffin posted a photo of her holding a mask resembling the decapitated head of President Donald Trump in 2017, which resulted in a similar social media backlash.
Both women reported their posts were meant as jokes and apologized after, but that does not fix the pain caused by their words and actions.
Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian and ethicist, said, “All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions.”
My mother made sure that when we were young, my siblings and I understood there were consequences to our words and actions. That is often the case with mothers and young children. We are taught to “watch what we say” and “treat others the way we want to be treated.”
At what age is this no longer necessary? Somewhere along the way, many seem to forget these critical lessons and simply do and say whatever comes to mind with very little forethought. This often leads to pain and misunderstanding.
I firmly believe the world would be a much better place if everyone could stop for a moment before speaking and consider their words. Next time you are frustrated at work or stressed out at home, take a pause and think to yourself: Is what I’m about to say necessary, important or nice?