Words are extremely powerful.
They can be used as a weapon or a bouquet.
Thumper: “He doesn’t walk very good, does he?”
Mrs. Rabbit: “Thumper!”
Thumper: “Yes, mama?”
Mrs. Rabbit: “What did your father tell you this morning?”
Thumper: [clears throat] “If you can’t say something nice…don’t say nothing at all.”
Since the movie Bambi aired in 1942, Thumper’s profound words of wisdom have been used, reused, varied and espoused in just about every house-hold in America. The most popular version has close to 4,000 likes on Facebook.
If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
Growing up I heard this phrase from my parents multiple times. I’d walk away from the reprimand with a nod of my head in agreement, then roll my eyes and think to myself, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” I mean, within 24 hours one of my parents would undoubtedly be using their words of wisdom to call some driver they didn’t even know an asshole.
We are a society fueled by words. They are our primary source of communication. We use them in social media, emotional expression, education, creation and destruction. Multi-million dollar corporations are based upon the very words (most of us take for granted) given by consumers in the thousands of surveys and comment cards we’ve all been asked to fill out over the years. Whether it’s your cable company, bank, health club, or Facebook posts, the entire macrocosmic world wants, needs and forms itself based on our microcosmic words. Words that that expel from of our mouths like an inconvenient sneeze.
A thought becomes a word. A word becomes an action. An action becomes an automatic behavior.
We are a society filled of critics, judges, complainers and negative thinkers who use their words to express all that is wrong with everyone and everything in this world. It starts with the negatively skewed news reporting we are programed by since birth and ends with the dissatisfactory personal lives of our friends and family. We are literally programmed to find something unkind to say, see, hear or feel.
Thumper clearly hit a chord here back in 1942, turning such simple words into an age-old adage! It’s not that we can’t find something nice to say, we are a society that has been trained not to.
Thankfully, I got hooked like a junkie to self-help books, meditation, yoga and alternative healing before I could even drink legally. The self-evolvement efforts of the hippie/beatnik generation really paid off for the Gen X-er’s like me! And although I’m not even remotely a master of kindness, I’m at least accountable for all that I say and do.
Accountability is at the heart of Thumper’s 11-word phrase. His words challenge us and remind us to think before we speak. To assess what we want to put out into this world. It challenges us to slow down our rapid thinking minds and knee-jerk reactions and think before we speak.
It beckons each of us to ask the question: Is what I’m about to say helpful, loving or kind?
Accountability is the very word that stops you from using your troubled childhood, or the bad behaviors you learned as a kid, as an excuse to be unkind with your words. Accountability is the point when our adult minds become liberated, freed from the inherent narcissistic state it’s been stuck in since we were toddlers. Accountability realizes that our words, whether written, spoken or thought are our personal responsibility. And if we use those words wrongly, we apologize.
So the next time you consider using the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, try to be preemptive and remind yourself—
Just for today, I will do my best to speak and behave kindly towards others.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Cami Krueger / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum