Many of us have heard the phrase from our mothers and grandmothers, “If you can not say anything nice, do not say anything at all.” I think that this is a time honored statement of good manners that has been largely forgotten in this day and age.
A couple of months ago, I took a trip to Mexico to visit a dear friend. There were many things that struck me about Mexico in comparison to the United States. One of the things that struck me was how little people complained in Mexico. Of course, it could be that people were really complaining, and I did not catch it because I do not speak Spanish, but I rarely got the impression from people’s facial expressions or tone of voice that they were complaining. In contrast, when I came back to the States, I was shocked by how much complaining I saw, even on my the first day back.
Another bad habit I have noticed all around me is the habit of swearing. People nowadays seem to use swear words as if they were ordinary nouns and adjectives. I will admit that there was a time in which I too had that bad habit, but I think that I have mostly stopped that now. It is particularly disturbing to see how much swearing there is on the Internet in social media. It is one thing to shout an expletive in a moment of emotion such as shock, pain, or anger. It is still not good, but it seems like a more forgivable indiscretion. Yet, when one posts in the Internet, one has the opportunity for reflection and thoughtful consideration before hitting the “post” or “send” button, and of course, anything we put on the Internet is available to be viewed forever by anyone in the world. Why would one want to show oneself to be foulmouthed in this context?
As a contrast, I was thinking of a video education series I watched a few years ago, The Story of Human Language. It seems that many traditional cultures have a High and a Low Language, and some even have a Middle Language. According to the professor, it is a huge challenge for linguists to capture the Low Language, because the minute traditional people know that they are being recorded for study, they are too embarrassed to use Low Language, and they will switch to speaking in the High Language.
I think that some of the reason for the prevalence of complaining and swearing in the Modern West is part of a larger decline in civilization and because people have forgotten their nature as spiritual beings. Very few people go to church or are involved in any spiritual community, and even the leaders of spiritual communities do not really understand the power of speech anymore.
In the New Age movement, and in modern psychology, there is the concept of “Positive Thinking,” which is basically using our thoughts to bring to us what we want out of life. Despite this, there are many who subscribe to these notions, yet are still sloppy with their speech in terms of complaining and swearing.
As a Filianist, I do believe that our speech does matter. Metaphysically, everything that we say, think, and imagine is real in the Lunary Sphere of existence. While I think that the notion of “Positive Thinking” is rather oversimplistic, what we do in the Lunary Sphere can and does impact the physical world. When we swear and complain, we are polluting the Lunary Sphere. The pollution of the Lunary Sphere is far, far more damaging to our souls than the pollution of the physical air is to our bodies.
This concept is better expressed in the feminine Scriptures, in the Sutra, Thoughts of the Mind,
20. Forget not the power of words, for a word has all the power of a thought and a thought has power to move the earth and the heavens.
21. Therefore speak not evil in idleness, nor fall into the custom of ill speaking; but govern your words even as your actions.
22. Speak words of love and innocence, of mildness and of hope, and you shall weave a raiment of peace about your soul, and a veil of gentle light.
There are those who might read this and think to themselves that this is all well and good, but should not one be honest about negative feelings and thoughts? Is it not wrong to speak polite words, if one is thinking negative thoughts? I think the answer to this is that I believe that our thoughts are more complicated than we think they are. I know, for myself, I often have negative thoughts, but I do not know that these negative thoughts always represent my true thoughts and feelings.
In the Modern West, there is a culture that teaches that the negative parts of ourselves and of others are what is “real,” and that when people are being nice and good, they are hiding something. My own belief is that this is reversed. The Real part of us is the part that is good and kind, and the False part of us is the ugly part. For more discussion of this, you can refer to a previous article, True and False Selves Through the Zodiac.
When I go through a day, many thoughts go through my head, like little birds. Both negative and positive thoughts about situations and people flit past, sometimes at the same time about the same person or situation. If I subscribe to the cultural belief that the negative thoughts are my “real feelings,” and the positive ones are “making excuses” or “holding back,” I will hold on to the negative thoughts and feelings and dismiss the positive ones. Yet, why would my negative thoughts be any more “real” than my positive ones? If I understand that often my negative thoughts and feelings are that of my False Self, and the positive, loving thoughts and feelings are those of my True Self, I can let the negative thoughts and feelings flit away, and I can hold on to the positive thoughts and feelings. In doing so, I am being very honest when I speak kind and loving words to others, even as I am ignoring the whispers and complaints from my False Self.
As I say this, I know that I am far from perfect. As in the other areas of my life where I am making changes, I have a long way to go. In another Sutra, The Clew of the Horse, it says:
58. Hard to govern is the mind, like to a proud horse that drinketh of the wind, filled with its own desires. 59. Fain would it draw the rain from thy hand and carry you where it will; fain will it take the body for its mistress. 60. Like to a bird that doth hop from twig to twig, turning first to one fruit, then to another, without control or constancy.
Even so, I believe that it is a worthwhile endeavor to strive to control our words and our speech, or to follow the time honored quote I mentioned above, “if you can not say anything nice, do not say anything at all.” If my thoughts are kind and loving, I can move them out into the world with my words. If my thoughts are not kind and loving, I can let them pass as a flitting bird, without giving them more substance through my words.