Today’s quote is a good reminder to sometimes just stay silent and smile – “Always remember: Silence and smile are two very powerful tools.” (Paulo Coelho)
In today’s noisy and often acrimonious world there is way too little silence and too few smiles. Remaining silent in the face of loud complaints or expressions of opinion often gives the other person pause to consider what they just said? Did I not understand what they said or maybe do I not agree? And why am I smiling at them? They just don’t know.
Many times, people who are loudly proclaiming something are really looking for acceptance and reinforcement of their opinion. They do not find that in silence as a response to their rant and that is jarring to their confidence. And then, there is that smile. What does that mean? Am I smiling because I think they just said something that is completely stupid? Maybe I’m just smiling out of pity for someone who can be so far off the mark. They just don’t know.
So, keep Coelho’s advice in mind the next time that you are in a situation, perhaps one that is emotionally charged, that seems to dictate a response from you. Use the most powerful tools that you have – your silence and a smile. Keep them guessing.
There is another saying that applies, too. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” That saying has been variously attributed to Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln. Seldom these days do people jump to the conclusion that someone who remains silent is a fool. Rather they become concerned that they may have just made a fool of themselves. Keep them guessing.
In his post today, Pastor Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “Always ask yourself what will happen if I say nothing.” (Kamand Kojouri)
Paster Freed went on to write – Each of us has probably found ourself in a situation where…(“I should have kept my mouth shut -.or -Why didn’t I speak up when I had the opportunity?) One of my favorite Bible passages is Ecclesiastes 3…”There’s a time for everything. There’s a time to speak up…and a time to shut up.” (Ed -Actually the Bible verse says a time to speak and a time to remain silent.)
I have a sign on my front lawn that is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. – “Our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter.”
The point of King’s message and the answer to Kojouri’s quote is that there are consequences associated with remaining quiet, not speaking up or taking action when we witness things that are wrong. That is not to say that it is right to go out into the streets and participate in lawless riots. The looting and burning that we have witnessed in the aftermath of recent racially charge police killings is not the action that either King or Kojouri were alluding to either. They are not a part of the solution and just detract from making progress on solving problems like police brutality by a few rouge officers.
The leaders (inspirational or otherwise) of all great movements in history have been those who chose to speak up about things that mattered and that were wrong. In most cases they were not out rioting in the streets, but rather out there to raise their voices in protest and to demand change (or justice). Many of them, in fact, spoke quietly but forcefully. Many endured hardships or imprisonment (Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela come to mind), but they continued to speak out against the wrongs that they saw in their countries and societies.
In many news casts one sees people of all colors joining in protest against some injustice or wrong that they have seen against a person of a specific color or ethnicity. Those people answered the question that Kojouri asked by deciding that doing nothing was not an answer acceptable to them. Doing nothing is an answer that does not often lead to change. Just deciding that you won’t go to a planned anti-gay rally is not an action that will cause change. Going to be part of a counter-group to stand in protest of that rally, and the thoughts behind it, is an action which may either change minds or at least show support of the opposite view and the people being targeted.
It is important to ask yourself the question that Kojouri raised and to adopt the philosophy that King espoused when the answer is that the thing that you are considering really matters. There are many things in life upon which you may wish to remain neutral and here will be no harmful consequences, like choosing between Right or Left Twix, for instance. However there are also many things which you may try avoid taking a stance on that can, and do, impact your life and the lives of others; often in ways that you don’t initially understand. It is easy to say to yourself, “This doesn’t impact me, so I will stay out of it.” That is that attitude and inaction that encourages bullying, for instance.
So keep your mind and your options open when you encounter things that don’t seem right to you. Determine if this is something that matters to you or to others around you and ask yourself the question that Kojouri asked. When you have determined that it is something that matters, I think the answer to Kojouri’s question will come easily to you and silence or inaction will no longer be an option.