February 22, 2017 – What’s Better Left Unsaid


“Cato practiced the kind of speech capable of moving the masses, believing proper political philosophy takes care like any great city to maintain the warlike element. But he was never seen practicing in front of others, and no one ever heard him rehearse a speech. When he was told that people blamed him for his silence, he replied, ‘Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid’.” – Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 4

My son’s girlfriend’s father (I guess I could simply refer to him as my friend Chris) responded to a recent Facebook post in which I thanked him for disagreeing with me. He and I have a number of ideological differences, yet we have a mutual respect for each other so no residue remains from the more caustic debates.

Here is what he shared:

Arguing with you is like Jackie Gleason trying to chase down Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the bandit. Which would make me say I’ve argued with a lot of people in my days but you are the most arguingist sum bitch I’ve ever argued with.

Trust me when I tell you that he meant this as a compliment. It is true I love to debate, or argue. Socratic dialogue is a means of uncovering what we believe to be true, putting it through the wash, and then hanging it out to dry. Sometimes the shirt still fits, and at other times we need to purchase a new one.

However, there can be a tipping point. The downside of being “the most arguingist sum bitch” is that folks see you as someone who argues. Is that necessarily a good thing? No. There are times when we need to be silent. One of our previous meditations spoke to not offering opinions on everything. This is good advice. We can learn much from simply listening, and as Plutarch advises it is better to be blamed for silence instead of being blamed for acting without preparation.

There are a good number of times when I offer opinions that are not well informed simply for the sake of the debate. Even if my goal of self-awareness, or education, is primary it may be the case I’m going about it the wrong way. I embraced this meditation, and hopefully, I can use it to improve on an area of my person that could surely use it.

In the words of Will Rogers:

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

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