To produce some good

Should I say something? Let me get back to you on that.   Self portrait, August 2015

Should I say something? Let me get back to you on that.
Self portrait, August 2015

“I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.”Abraham Lincoln

To borrow some famous words of Yogi Berra, Lincoln really didn’t say everything he said, but apparently he really said this.  And WOW, what a quote.  Just think how much better the world would be if EVERYONE followed this rule.

Assuming one doesn’t quibble over the question “good for whom?” (which might be used to justify anything that generates publicity or commercial profit) I think it’s safe to say that a huge percentage of thoughtless and harmful chatter would be promptly eliminated if we took this idea to heart.

Can you imagine how talk radio and news commentary would be transformed by this principle? But closer to home, how might it change our everyday conversations? I like to think most of what I say is at least harmless, but I’m a long way from meeting this standard myself.

I invite you to join me in an experiment this week.  I’m going to try being more aware of how much of what I say (or write) can pass Lincoln’s test.  For some of us, this will mean saying less; for others of us, it might mean saying MORE, in the form of compliments to those who need them, encouraging words to people who are struggling, and being unafraid to share positive ideas for practical improvements in places where we tend to feel silent disapproval for how things are.

If you were to adopt Lincoln’s policy regarding your own speech, would you end up saying less? Or more?  Or the same amount, with a different focus?  Share your ideas in the comments, and let’s hope to produce some good with what we say here.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

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