Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K. – Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
I came across this beautiful story on the internet:
There was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said,
“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same again.” END OF STORY.
Metaphor-wise, the “nail holes in the fence” in our story suggest that we have to be careful or exercise caution with our words before we utter them to others – lest we leave a legacy of hurt or pain on others, and regret about things we should never have said.
When I was undergoing my graduate studies in Mass Communication, I’ve learned one basic principle: Communication is irreversible or unrepeatable.
This principle applies to interpersonal as well as organizational and mass communication. In the interpersonal level, a hurting remark on a colleague, intentional or not, can spell a broken relationship. In the organizational sphere, a badly written or tactless memo can trigger an employee to resign or even seek legal redress. In the realm of broadcast and print media, no amount of “erratum” rejoinder or correction notice can erase or undo an erroneous (factual or otherwise) print or broadcast news story. This is true likewise with the ever-pervasive social media – and thus we have the proverbial forewarning, “Think before you click!”
Again, like the “nail holes” in our story, negative or harsh words can, apart from breaking up relationships, leave a lasting and unforgettable scar on others – even if they are forgiven.
Proverbs 18:21 rightly said it:
“The tongue has power over life and death, those who like speaking will eat its fruit.”
Being careful with our words is exercising the valuable skill of tactfulness. Tact is the ability to tell the truth in a way that considers other people’s feelings and reactions. Encompassing emotional intelligence, respect, discretion, self-awareness, compassion, and honesty, tact allows us to preserve existing relationships and build new ones.
In the arena of moral virtues, tact may be included in the ambit of prudence. As one of the four cardinal virtues (with justice, fortitude, and temperance), prudence was considered by the ancient Greek philosophers, which they called “phronesis,” as the foundation of all other human virtues because it enables the person to do what is right, at the right moment for the right reasons.
Not to be confused with timidity or duplicity, prudence impels or disposes us to choose the right thought, word, and action.
In sum, the following lines are truly spot-on:
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch you habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.