If you don’t have anything nice to say…


If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. We’ve all heard this one millions of times, but have we ever REALLY thought about it? IS it really best to not say anything at all if we having nothing nice to say, and what exactly is “nice”? How are we using it? Is it always nice to say nice things or is it sometimes not very nice at all, perhaps even hurtful and damaging?


Let’s imagine we have a friend who loves to sing. Let’s call her Lynne. She sings along with the radio, she sings in the shower, she sings as she works, she’s the first up to the karaoke table and she’s eager to go caroling every year. Lynne’s a sweetheart, a real peach, and everyone loves Lynne. One tiny problem though, and that’s that she can’t carry a tune. She’s more tone deaf than Cindy Crawford. In fact, her singing brings to mind a cat being tortured like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart. Now like I said, everyone loves Lynne, so no one tells her that her singing is awful, because they don’t want to hurt her feelings. They figure the nice thing to do is to just smile and endure the torture. They compound this by telling her nice things about her singing, either flat out lying or some Herculean effort to find SOMETHING to compliment, “gosh, it’s amazing how you can remember all those lyrics!” Of course once with others when Lynne isn’t around everyone laughs about how awful Lynne sings. Now is that nice? Is it nice to allow her musical delusion to continue despite both the discomfort it causes others as well as the continued talking about her in private, or is the nice thing to do to let her know she’s not quite the talent she believes she is? Let’s go further. Let’s say she’s so convinced that she has talent and she’s going to pursue a singing career. Now what’s nice, letting her in on the secret or letting her go out and get crushed?

I think often we figure it’s nicer to not let someone know they’re mistaken because it’ll hurt their feelings to know the truth. Think about that for a moment, you so-called truth seekers, you lovers of logic and reason, because it’ll hurt their feelings to know the truth. What? Would it hurt your feelings to know the truth? Think carefully now, because the truth you claim you love might not be what you want to hear. To borrow a famous line, maybe “you can’t handle the truth”.

I think that’s important to learn about oneself, no? I would hope that you would want someone to tell you the truth, that you’d want to know it, indeed need to know it, especially if you’re mistaken about something critical. That’s love, that’s caring for you. Someone who would risk your anger, risk the possibility of losing your friendship, your presence in their life by telling you the truth is someone to be lucky to have. There are plenty of selfish people and gadflies who will circle you and benefit from knowing you who will never level with you because it’s not nice. Nice for who, you or them? Perhaps the excuse of not wanting to hurt your feelings is not so much to spare you but spare themselves the discomfort of your hurt feelings or the loss of being with you. What kind of friends are that? This is why Falwell considered Larry Flint a good friend, because Larry was the only one who would tell him when he was full of shit (which must have been a full time job).

So we can go on being delusional by keeping a nice circle of placating friends around us who indulge our delusions, and we can maintain that circle by equally placating them and indulging their delusions, or we can be real friends, be the kind of people we’d want to have as friends ourselves, and not deny the truth. The truth will set us free it’s said, and perhaps it might just set us free of all the people we call friends now. That’s a risk certainly, but no reward is had without risk. So can you handle the truth?

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8 Responses to “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

  1. Well, now that you mention it, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your singing.

  2. Get in line. ;)

  3. I’ve got one thing to say about this post.

    Oh. Wait a minute.

    Never mind.

  4. Have a NICE day, everyone…

  5. I was going to comment, but since I didn’t have anything nice to say, I’ll keep it to myself.

  6. This phenomenon explains the first few episodes of American Idol every year.

    The problem is, if you’re the one willing to tell somebody the truth (politely, I would hope), you’re the asshole, because “everyone else thinks I’m good. You’re just jealous.”

    We are a selfish people.

  7. Politely or not, you always risk being called an asshole, or whatever nonsense that person can come up with at the time, or maybe they just stew until a later date when they use something else as an excuse to unload on you and you can’t fathom why they’re getting so upset.

    Look, the point of the post was that if you don’t tell someone you think they’re wrong because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings, you’re really just an ass and a liar because it’s not them feeling hurt that you want to avoid, it’s having to deal with them being hurt. Honesty and truth, remember those? Most conveniently forget them when it suits them. I don’t, and I can only hope people I know don’t either.

  8. I am sure to do the same that you have been asking about because for a sensible person it is the right choice. Beside that it sure was an interesting article to go through for the first time impression.

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