I have a belching problem—both literally and figuratively. On the literal side, let’s just say that carbonated beverages don’t do me any favors. My husband still shakes his head in disbelief (and perhaps some dismay), when his tall, slender bride delivers a deep, throaty belch that puts even his bass drum to shame.
I’m pretty sure that was a post-nuptial surprise he hadn’t planned on.
Bevvies aside, however, there’s another kind of belching I do that he probably didn’t bank on either: criticism.
Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.”
I’m a belching fool, ya’ll. I often joke that I “comment” on things, but really that’s just a nice way of saying, I criticize.
Criticism, according to Merriam-Webster is: the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing; a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something; a person strongly resembling that of Sarah Nguyen (hint: that’s me!).
“But wait,” you say, “that verse says a fool belches foolishness, not criticism.” True. Yet for me, criticism—in this context of speaking negatively or disapprovingly—is a kind of foolishness. Being foolish means “showing a lack of good sense, judgment, or discretion.”
Somehow, I’ve managed to mount a 30-plus year defense trying to convince myself and others that my commentary is not harmful. That me casually suggesting the right turn you just took was not smart because now we’re stuck in traffic. Or that perhaps you should have watched a “how to” video on YouTube before calling a technician over to the house to take $300 of our hard-earned money for flipping a switch on and off. Or that the assembly of said item wouldn’t have gone wrong if you had just read the directions more carefully.
Criticism. Criticism. Criticism.
It’s foolish to believe that such “commentary “ is helpful. It’s not. It slowly chips away at the value of a person and belittles them. And these little criticisms add up. When I really evaluate what I’m saying, each statement by itself is fairly innocuous. But when continuously linked together, they can do some serious damage. Much like eating a super spicy hot wing. The first one goes down ok. But by the third or fourth, what started as a comfortable heat has compounded into a raging inferno in your mouth.
I’m done taking Tums (metaphorically speaking). I’m done treating the symptom of my poor choices. It’s time to change what comes out of my mouth. To start replacing criticism with praise and to stop belching foolishness.
I know I’m not alone in this. Now more than ever our social media-driven society is big into belching foolishness. Debates and discussions quickly turn into browbeating barrages and attacks. Unnecessary and unwarranted criticism is rampant.
It’s time to change our discourse. To carefully consider what we say before we say it. To weigh the impact of our words. To put ourselves in the shoes of the listener and ask ourselves, “Is this helpful or hurtful?”
It’s time to focus on loving others well. To focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and praiseworthy. It’s time to step up our etiquette game, squelch the belch and instead be vocal in our encouragement for one another.
And if we can’t be nice, then let’s heed the advice of Thumper’s mother from Bambi who said, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”