"Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody." Benjamin Franklin
I read this quote several years ago and it has greatly impacted the way that I live my life. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how it affects our lives daily. Care to indulge me while I share some thoughts and observations from my own life? Here we go!
In the past several months, I have worked on a number patients that have been sent in to my massage room with warnings. Things like.. "Oh just wait until you work on her.. she's a real ray of sunshine." Or, "You wouldn't believe what she said to me!" When I heard these stories, I made assumptions about the people they were about, obviously. How could I not? There was one specific patient I worked on who I was actually dreading working on due to the stories I had heard about her. What other people said about her had shaped my opinion of her before I could even recognize who she was.
When I saw her name on my schedule, I was immediately disappointed. I was annoyed that she was my last patient on a Friday. I didn't like her already. However, once I began working on her and hearing her story and seeing how she was as a communicator, I realized that she wasn't mean or offensive, she's just misunderstood. Some people, this woman included, have a "brassy" nature (as I like to call it) and go through life offending others regularly (most commonly, people who have a difficult time giving others the benefit of the doubt).
It was a very humbling experience. She was perfectly nice to me. She had a rough exterior but I could tell it was from a rough life and a sad and lonely heart. She wasn't mean. She was broken. (So am I. So are you.) I was wrong about her.
Example number 2: Josh plays on an indoor soccer team. There is a bloke that plays with him who is quite annoying. Ball hog. Lazy. Fakes falling down. Fights with the refs. Several months ago, my younger siblings came to a game with us. On the way there, Josh and I made several jokes about the player we don't care for, explained to my siblings why we didn't like him, and then carried on with the evening. During the game, they (of course) asked me to point out which player was the one we didn't like. For the rest of the game, they were sure to point out annoying things he did and, in a way, make fun of him just the same as Josh and I had. Why wouldn't they? They already knew how we felt about him. They were just agreeing with me.
After the game, I realized that I did that to them. I made them not like him before they ever even saw him. I spoke ill of him, so they thought ill of him. If I hadn't said anything, they wouldn't have noticed anything. Or, if I had said "all the good" I know of him (which isn't much) they would have had a completely different reaction towards him. Or, if I had had nothing at all. No one would have ever known any different.
My coworkers made me not like a couple of patients before I ever even saw them. They spoke ill of them, so I thought ill of them. If they hadn't said anything, I either wouldn't have noticed anything or I would have found out for myself.
And I guess you could say that sometimes you need to be warned about nasty people. I think that's true. I have, in the past, warned someone I cared for about a difficult person because I wanted to protect their heart, in a way. More often than that though, it just feels good to tell the story of "how awful someome was to me" or "you wouldn't believe what she did/said to me!" because my pride was hurt or I wanted to sound funny/interesting/important/better than them.
Which is gossip, actually.
So I would like to get in the habit of speaking all the good I know of everybody. To gossip in a good way. It's been quite a challenge, but so far it has been worth it.