In his book The Enigma of Anger: Essays on the Sometimes Deadly Sin, Episcopal priest and author Garrett Keizer discusses the relationship between anger and language in his chapter on words. He mentions speech codes (the social etiquette of language in community) and gives his personal set of nomenclature. I thought he had some good principles and decided to share them.I’m not quite sure I’d adhere to all of them but he brings up some good points. What are your thoughts?
- Speak less. Treat speech in the same way as your doctor has advised you to treat food. “Try to leave the table one third less than full.”
- Make your needs known. Never be upset for failing to receive what you never asked for.
- Complain for the sake of change, or for the sake of camaraderie, but never to get attention or to put on airs. Complaints are not credentials.
- Never take offense- or give it- over matters of taste. Speak of your own passions, but do not denigrate others’ passions. When there is nothing in the world left to disagree over, then let us have at one another over music, cuisine, and movies. Let us fight in the streets over style.
- Speak nothing but the truth, but seldom all of the truth. “Telling the truth” is tedious in small matters and cruel in large. Will God ever tell us all the truth about ourselves? Who could bear it?
- Speak your heart only to those dear to your heart. “Cast not your pearls before swine.”
- Listen as though it were a sacred obligation. Take careful note of the correlation between your attentiveness to others and your aptitude for prayer. Grace for the one never exists without grace for the other.
- Coax the quiet and the shy, but do not badger them. Have an eye out for those who look for an invitation to speak, and give them one. But do not cater to those who coyly wait for repeated invitations.
- Ask more questions than you answer. Refuse questions that are impertinent or that tempt you to appear more knowledgeable or convinced than you are.
- Call no one by an epithet. “Whoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Names are sacred.
- Say nothing about another person that you would not admit in that person’s presence. It will probably find its way to his ears anyway.
- Explain yourself to the degree that others wish to understand, not to the degree that you wish to be understood. The wish to be understood absolutely is a violation of the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Only God understands us completely.
- Never use knowledge or vocabulary to exclude another person. This is no different from eating bread in front of the hungry.
- Waste no time with people who deliberately misunderstand you, who caricature what you say in order to attack it more easily. Pick on someone your own size.
- Use or abstain from offensive language with an eye to etymology and connotation. Shit is a fine old word for an indispensible thing. Fuck is a violent word for a beautiful thing.
- Be wary of prescribing commandments. Break any code for the sake of unsentimental compassion. A noble silence is not always the opposite of noise. Nor is hatred always the opposite of love. Sometimes dogma is.