Speak Loudly with Silence

June 2, 2011
When a friend of mine posed the question “Which is worse: to say something and regret doing so later or to say nothing and hoping you had opened your mouth?,” I naturally did not answer right away but contemplated over the question later. I remember countless instances in which I did not say something that I should have, but these incidents did not have as many damaging effects as the times when I said the wrong thing.

Clearly, I made a grave mistake when I shamelessly criticized my peer’s attire merely because her boyfriend outsmarted me in an argument that we had online. Vengeance, one of the causes of hatred, second only to envy, motivated me to find fault with her. One day I would poke fun at the baby barrettes that loosely held her scraggly hair. The next day, my objects of denunciation were her baggy khakis, which I formerly believed would have fitted a two-legged horse better. For a very long time, I did not realize that my negative comments had no impact on her. In fact, she seemed oblivious to my denigration, but my other classmates certainly noticed my merciless slandering. My comments, although not painful to the object of my criticism, negatively affected my emotional, spiritual, and social life. Depression destroyed my jovial spirits, guilt plagued my every thought, and friends ignored my sincere pleas for forgiveness. I should have conceded to her boyfriend instead of letting my pride control my actions. In situations in which talking will only exacerbate conditions, remain silent to protect yourself and others.

Defamation, a violation of the fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments that Christians and Jews have to abide, murders the character of one or more persons. Punishment for these wrongdoings falls on Muslims, Buddhists, and nonbelievers equally. One’s racial background, class, age, or gender does not matter; people will label a slanderer a social outcast and express no sympathy for the criminal. Even if you do not believe in karma or you deny the existence of any supernatural force, you would still have to admit that, sooner or later, someone or something, your best friend or your conscience, will punish you for the injustice you have wrought on your community. Anyone who has ever committed the crime of ruining others’ reputations already knows that one human can effortlessly destroy other people. So then, what stops the victims from denouncing the one who made them so vindictive and prevents the witnesses from punishing the one who threatens their safety, independence, and happiness? Instead of creating a circle of furious faces and moving mouths, let our faces display only the subliminal peace we acquired at our births and not the unsuppressed anger we experienced throughout our lives.

I personally experience the stress that urges all high-school students to succeed and I feel the euphoria students experience after finishing time-consuming projects or when becoming officers of cherished clubs. Most students share their magnificent achievements to classmates whom they barely know, peers who are literally near strangers. Of course, you should relay your accomplishments sometimes to strangers during interviews but not every moment and especially not to students who you are competing against for class rank and other academic competitions. You definitely must flaunt these achievements to college deans and scholarship sponsors, but not to students of your high-school class.

If you wait until you reach home to gloat about the perfect score you earned on your AP Biology test, you will not sprout envy in your classmates’ weak souls or acquire insincere praise from your peers. Bragging to your parents will result in a reply similar to this one, “Way to go, sweetie. You’re definitely going to be valedictorian at Harvard University!”

On the other hand, if you decide to tell your classmate who didn’t earn that high grade you did, he or she will remark, “Wow! Good job,” with false enthusiasm in his or her tone and a tinge of sadness mixed in with his or her spurious smile.

As you can see, people should refrain from speaking unnecessarily but comment wisely in appropriate conditions. Always carefully choose your words, and remember that you’re not the only one who will hear what you say. As Walter Bagehot said, “An inability to stay quiet […] is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind” (Bagehot 121). Let us strive to correct this grave shortcoming in our lives by removing every trace of envy and pride that causes us to speak offensively.

Bagehot, Walter. Physics and Politics or, Thoughts on the Application of the Principles of
“Natural Selection” and “Inheritance” to Political Society. New York: The Colonial
Press, 1900. Google Book Search. Web. 17 Sep 2010.

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