“A giraffe has a black tongue twenty-seven inches long and no vocal cords. A giraffe has nothing to say. He just goes on giraffing.” – Robert Fulghum,
When Roy said on Sunday that we develop traits in 6th grade that carry forward, it reminded me of a book.
Approximately 25 years ago, Robert Fulghum published a book entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book became a number one New York Times bestseller. We were told to share everything, play fair, and take a nap every afternoon. Additional things to live by include, “don’t take things that aren’t yours,” and “say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” Not all that the book covers is so pragmatic. There is the need to be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all impressed by that. That was the kid in us, to not really know how or why, but just to have wonder.
Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. It is hard to argue with any of those life rules. Once you’ve graduated from Kindergarten, and you have taken these rules to heart, you have a sound foundation for life and strong relationships.
I think most people would agree that life would be better if we had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if every government had the basic default of always cleaning up their own mess. And it is still true, that it is the best policy not to hurt people through our actions or our words. And that is never more true than in our relationships.
Blaise Pascal, one of the great mathematicians and philosophers of our time described it this way: “Few friendships would survive if each one knew what his friend says of him behind his back. I lay it down as a fact that if all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world.” And you can add to that spouses, sisters, brothers, co-workers etc. Words are harmful. And unlike in Kindergarten, where we as kids forget about something said or done several minutes later, we as adults tend to hold onto the hurt and use it as motivation for rebuttal and/or revenge.
The truth is some things are better left unsaid, because harmful words have long lasting consequences. If they are unkind or untrue, you want them to take it back, but it never works. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. There is grace and forgiveness, hope and reconciliation, but once those words go out, you can’t retrieve them. And it is a whole lot easier not to say the words in the first place than to do the damage control of covering your tracks and trying to make amends.
Everything you need to know is in Robert Fulgrum’s book somewhere. Take any one of those items and put it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if all governments had, as a basic policy, to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. Or, if we never learned to use the tongue as a weapon, and better yet, we forgot a conflict a minute later like we did when we were in Kindergarten.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
1. Would you want a friend/relative to know what you say behind his or her back?
2, What is the major obstacle to harnessing your words?
3. What is the first small step that would make a difference in your ability to control your words?
4. Pray and ask God to give you the tools and the development to think before you react, and to improve rather than harm your relationships through your words.