Vertrees: Speak no evil of others; there’s no taking it back
By Carrol Vertrees March 29, 2014 10:42PM
Updated: May 1, 2014 6:20AM
You might figure that a 46-year-old guy would know better than to fly a kite in a thunderstorm. But I reckon we should be glad Ben Franklin did it back there in 1752. He made a shocking discovery that helped change the way people lived.
Some other guys who tried it did not live to tell their stories — they really got shocked. Maybe Ben was lucky, but for sure he was awfully smart. His picture is on a $100 bill, I think, but I don’t deal in anything bigger than a twenty.
Anyway, Ben left us more than the kite thing — dozens of wise sayings, even more than Yogi Berra left us. Yogi said that “about half of what I said, I didn’t say.”
If I don’t start to make some point in this, one of my friends may say “Aw, go fly a kite!”
OK, here is the sermon topic: Ben said, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover from, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”
We may like that one, but we know it is for somebody else, not us.
The truth, though, is that even a sincere apology — whatever that is — does not erase the hurt we may cause when we cannot resist saying something negative, true or not.
A sincere apology will help ease the sting of some bad stuff that we say about others, but the words are still out there. Do I apologize because I am truly sorry or because I meant to say it, hoping that nobody would challenge me?
Maybe there is a difference between the slip of the tongue and a real intent to be mean and judgmental.
A national TV fellow said the other day that he was wrong when he said some time ago that the president is a racist. I respect what he said: “I think I played a role in helping tear the country apart, and it’s not who we are.”
A political fellow apologized for saying that Hillary Clinton is the “anti-Christ.” He should go fly a kite in a thunderstorm.
Long before Ben Franklin, long before kites probably, a Persian poet named Omar Khayyam wrote this:
“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on,
“Nor all your piety nor wit shall call it back to cancel half a line,
“Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”
There is another side to this — unspoken words. We often don’t say something when we should, and poof! The opportunity is gone.
We humans, some of us anyway, seem to be wired so that outbursts of anger, criticism, judging come easy, while positive words don’t. The negative stuff just hangs around there in our minds, pushing to be heard. Maybe we want to shift attention to someone else so that we can feel more secure ourselves.
We tend to slide through life — it is a common weakness — being openly critical, saying things we want to take back but can’t. Well, it is human to be tempted that way, but we had better remember what that famous kite flier fellow said about a slip of the tongue.
If we want to give up something during Lent, saying negative stuff is a good place to begin.