An earlier blog of mine extols the wisdom of Thumper. In essence, that cartoon cottontail said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep quiet.” Taken to the extreme, though, that word of advice can do terrible damage. So here’s another thought: never stop talking.
I know of siblings who refuse to speak to one another, spouses who have gone days without a word, and friendships that have nearly slipped away as resentment dissolved into silence. I’ve fallen into that trap myself and nearly lost a now precious relationship. At first, we may be tempted to count our quiet resolve as a noble response to injustice. Yet a refusal to speak says far more than any words. What it says can be, whether intentional or not, very cruel. “I hate you. I hope that my silence is causing you pain. I no longer value you. I want to pretend you do not exist.”
Silence gone longer becomes so much stronger. The initial wound that causes a rift may fade over the years, but by then the tear in the fabric of friendship or family tie may gape so wide that neither party knows how to mend it. Never stop talking.
Forgiveness is easier earlier. No, it’s not easy, just easier. And it’s demanded by our Lord. We do not have the right to resent. We have been forgiven, and we are commanded to forgive. When our children are small, we teach them the process of apology and forgiveness. “Susie, say ‘I’m sorry.’ Now, Sally, say, ‘I forgive you.’” But the two are not inextricably linked. We can apologize even if we fear that our apology will be met with a refusal to forgive. And we can—we must—forgive, even when an apology never comes. It doesn’t matter who “started it.”
I took a break from writing just now to do a bit of my Bible reading for the day. My passage was 1 Peter 2, which, perhaps not so surprisingly, speaks volumes on this issue. I’ve pasted a portion of it below, setting in bold type the phrases I found most convicting. Never stop talking is simply one of a thousand corollaries to this far more important directive: never stop forgiving.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good…But now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy…
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…
Show proper respect to everyone…For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.