While recently making a visit to St. Mary’s hospital in Athens, I passed by the gift shop, my eye quickly catching a glimpse of a small rack filled with inspirational books. Backtracking, I entered the shop to peruse the book selections, something now only occasionally done with the closing of so many bookstores.
One small book with the provocative title of “When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up” caught my attention. Thumbing through the pages I quickly learned that the author, Dr. Michael D. Sedler, is a teacherturned-pastor who provides leadership and communication training for business and religious conferences across the nation. The front cover advertised that this publication has sold more than 300,000 copies, an impressive number.
I found Sedler’s book to be scriptural based and filled with practical advice. The author spent time exploring the cost of remaining silent when words should be spoken, and he talked about overcoming pressure to remain silent when appropriate words need to be said. An interested thesis considering today’s chaotic political and social climate.
Chapter titles included “Communication Breakdown,” “The Purpose of Silence,” “Walking in Peace,” “Talking a Stand,” and “Winning the Race.” Interesting points were outlined, especially in our turbulent times when people have no qualms about shouting at each other on televised news programs and in governmental meetings.
Sedler’s book featured famous quotations under the headings of each chapter as, for example, this profound statement by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Also, this Winston Churchhill quote was included: “The Pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The Optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
While continuing to scan a few more chapters, I began to think more about how people don’t really take time to listen to each other or make attempts to understand different viewpoints. At least that how it seems, especially for a number of broadcasters, journalists, politicians, professors and opinion writers.
On the other hand, as mentioned in Dr. Sedler’s book, it is heartbreaking when good people say nothing when it’s obvious that wrongs need addressing. Perhaps Patrick Henry illustrates this best when he said, “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.”
And there’s the old adage that’s been around for years: “When you stand for nothing, you fall for anything.” Something to think about.
“Mistakes and missed opportunities are a part of our growth cycle in our life,” Sedler writes. “There will be times when we speak out instead of remaining silent and there will be times we are silent when a voice should come forth . . . and if we speak, doing so with words that promote and encourage further communication.”
It is shocking to see Americans not working together and, by-the-way, how are we supposed to believe political ads or the reliability of opinion polls? Everything is so partisan, dishonest and mean-spirited.
The continuing decay in civility and decorum remains troublesome. Radical demonstrators are intent on silencing their opposition by violent means, even to the point of breaking laws and destroying historic statues and headstones that honor dead soldiers. What happened to the concept of dignity and tolerance for everyone?
America is supposed to be a nation of laws and the “Silent Majority” has been silent too long. And I’m still trying to figure out how we came to this point: surely the tragic turmoil of our nation’s past history should have taught us something.
Sedler is correct: communities across our region -- and the nation -- would be better served if citizens spent more time respectfully listening to each other and subsequently offering positive ideas and solutions.
Anyway, I’ve spent too much time in this gift shop looking at this book. It’s time to make the purchase so I can learn even more.