Speaking or keeping silent

The difference between what you want to say and what you do say can be a lot of things. It can be hypocrisy or it can be good manners. It can be cowardice or it can be refusing to cast your pearls before swine.

I am prone to bad manners and I am prone to being a coward. But I am also prone to being a hypocrite and to throwing my pearls before swine whenever I get the chance. I suspect that whichever choice I make, I make it for the wrong reasons and thus do the wrong thing.

Of course, feelings and suspicions are bad reasons for judging one’s own actions. I would like to have a purely empirical answer to which choice to make. And from a purely empirical point of view, it would seem that I should never say what I want to say.

I can’t think of a single time where saying what I wanted to say was beneficial to anyone. On the flip side of that, I don’t have any lasting regrets about keeping my mouth shut. Not saying anything never seems to cause any harm.

But if we stay with the purely empirical point of view, it is obvious that I can’t avoid saying what I want to say for any length of time. That is to say, I can resist the temptation to say what I want to say once. I can resist the temptation twice. Often, I can resist it for a number of times.

Yet in the end, I am always going to say it. And I don’t say it very well. One might be tempted to argue that I should let it out sooner. But empirically speaking, it does not seem to matter if it is sooner or later. It all comes out just as bad regardless.

Having said that, on purely empirical grounds I am still forced to conclude that I should never say what I want to say. The impulse to say those things is a character flaw that I should strive with all my might to avoid.

But I don’t decide these things on purely empirical grounds. There is also theoretical issues to consider.

For example, one has to wonder if it is really beneficial to have constant contact with someone and yet never say what is really on your mind. I will probably never get to find out, as it is impossible for me to imagine myself in this situation long enough to get any kind of empirical answer.

But I can observe people who do seem to be able to go through life and still keep their opinions to themselves even with those they come into contact with everyday. And I can say that I don’t like what I see. “Fake” and “Shallow” are some of the kinder words that come to my mind.

Strictly speaking, this not really an empirical observation. I mean, it is empirical in so far as it reflects my feelings based on my observations. But I don’t really know that it would make things better if those people would speak their minds. I certainly could not prove it based on my own experience.

And that is the nub of my problem. I cannot make myself believe that keeping silent is a good course of action with anyone that you have repeated contact with. Such an idea just does not fit with my theoretical ideas about how the world works and how relationships should work. On the other hand, when I never see anything good come of speaking, it makes me despair of ever wanting to talk.

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