Every few days I see another article or blog post listing 5, 10, or 2568 things that I should never say to _____________. For example, if I were going to write such an article, it would have a title like this: “6 Things You Should Never Say to a Teacher/Aspiring Author/Single Woman.”
The good news is that number 4 in my hypothetical article—it happens when you least expect it—can apply to finding a publisher and a man.
As delightful as such an article would be, my convictions force me to pass on writing it. Instead, I give you 3.5 reasons why we should stop telling people what they should never say.
1.) It’s exhausting. Since I try to be kind and sensitive, I take these warnings to heart. However, I’m afraid I’m going to confuse a point from “16 Things Never to Say to a Person Who’s Just Flushed a Beloved Pet Goldfish” with a tip from “9 Things Never to Say to a Person Who Vomits after Eating Fish.”
Though, as long as I avoid saying something like, “Why didn’t you just fry the fish?” I’ll probably be okay.
2.) Instead of stomping on a fellow American’s constitutional right to free speech, laugh and impose a fine.
Most people mean well when they’re offering comfort and advice. See the humor in their words and charge them a dime for every time they say something like, “You should just try online dating.” Use the accumulated money to pay for an online dating subscription to prove that it does not magically produce a mate. (There are exceptions.)
3.) Realize people disappoint. We can’t always count on them to come through and say the right thing. They may try. What’s comforting to them might be painful to me. If we’re creating lists of things never to say with the purpose of understanding each other, then it’s noble. But I suspect it’s more about attempting to insulate people from ever experiencing hurt or from ever being offended.
3.5) Because people disappoint and hurt is an inevitable part of life, we should look to God for comfort. I’m reminded of Psalm 118:8: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
Let’s give each other a break. We aren’t sitting around plotting ways to be insensitive. (Once again, there are exceptions.) In the meantime, I’m going to memorize the “13 Things You Should Never Say to a Caffeine Addict Who Has Gone for Two Days without a Latte or Soda.”
My life might depend on that one.