Like many mothers, mine used to tell me, “If you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I was recently reminded of this when my husband of fifteen years commented to my mother, “you always have something nice to say about everyone.” While I don’t recall the exact comment my mother had made, or the person to whom she was referring, my husband’s observation and admiration struck me.
I would like to say that I too have always subscribed to this philosophy. However, this is not the case. I can recall times as a high school cheerleader and member of one of the more popular school cliques when I perhaps did not find something nice to say nor did I refrain from saying anything at all.
As the years passed, in college and later as a young professional, I tried to be a nicer person but would some times find myself gossiping or not always looking for the nice things to say. I know that words can hurt. And I hope that none that I have said have ever caused any real harm.
As I have matured, I realize that not only is my mother right, which is usually the case, but she is truly a nice person. She has loads of friends from all the various stages of her life. Seventy years old now, she is still friends with women she knew as a young girl as well as with the neighbors who recently moved in next door and the local pizza shop owner. Her philosophy has served her well through life and I strive to live my own life in the same manner.
Having lived in five countries in the last 15 years and almost twice as many cities, I have often been challenged to make new friends. Being nice and saying only nice things is a great way to do that. It may not always be the easiest way to live. It may be easier to join in with the crowd complaining about this or that; or join the few new people laughing at the expense of another; but it is certainly far more positive and helps to make the world a better place to live.
I may not have heeded my mother’s advice as a young girl, but by following her example, I hope that I can convey the same message to my young daughters and teach them to be nice people like their grandmother and hopefully, their mother.
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