Silence is golden

Published 3:27 am Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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Do you ever find yourself complaining about, well … anything and everything? With the additional stress of the pandemic, complaining seems to have gained momentum, and it’s actually very difficult to get on social media, watch TV, or even have a conversation without battling this tendency in ourselves or others. I guess I’m complaining about the complainers, myself included!

“I certainly wish it would rain. Everything is so hot and dry!”

“Good grief, it’s raining everyday. Better build an ark!”

We all know we could actually spend some time each day griping and complaining. Either folks are upset because others aren’t wearing masks in public, or they are upset because they are asked to wear one at all. And rest assured I’m not just noticing these behaviors in others, but I’m more aware than ever that I can easily fall into the category of complainer.

Really, who enjoys being around someone who finds fault with things and talks, talks, talks about it? Not only is this behavior annoying, but also I think it can ruin an otherwise perfectly wonderful day.

My precious grandmother, Mamaw, gave me many bits of advice as I followed her around her farmhouse kitchen, and one of them is perfect for today. Many times our conversations went something like this:

“Mamaw, what are you doing?”

“I’m making biscuits, honey.”

“Can I help, Mamaw?”

“Sure honey.”

She was never too busy to make time for one of her grandchildren, even though those hands of hers had much to accomplish before Papaw could leave for the fields to start his day. I confess that I never truly learned how to recreate the delicious biscuits she so skillfully baked, but the value of those moments spent in her little kitchen has been immeasurable in my life.

Mamaw whistled very badly while she worked. The sound was more an airy exhale than a melody, but it seemed to make her happy so I liked it. She spoke with such kindness that I hung on every word. Most of the time we chatted about inconsequential things, but every now and then she would impart a nugget of truth that has stuck with me through the years.

One such golden gem was seemingly her life mantra. I can still hear her singsong voice speaking softly, “If you can’t say anything nice, it’s better to say nothing at all.” I’m sure this statement was not original, but in her wisdom she shared it with me. So many times I catch myself just before giving in to complaining or putting in my two cents worth on something that is none of my business because her words play out in my head.

With all the trying situations of late and the often-conflicting emotions that present themselves, maybe the best thing I can do is to take a moment before speaking to ask myself if my words will help anyone. If not, well you and I both know what Mamaw would say about that.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at