They say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
They mean it, too.
And not just because most people have skin as thin as onions and would sacrifice 99% of the truth just to feel as beautiful and perfect as they did when they were young enough to have no self-awareness. No capacity for shame or worry. That time in their life when they could glide along in moments feeling bright, shiny, and eternal. When they were a single point of pure being without the constant interruptions of reflection, self-analysis. Self-scrutiny.
I mean, all of that’s true. But that’s not the only reason.
They also don’t want to hear stories with sad endings. Ones with no clear moral or upside. Because they’re weary of suffering, the inconvenience of other people’s pain. They desperately want the universe to have an order. For it to be just.
They don’t want bad things to be happening at all, but especially not to nice people like you. People they like. People they’ve come to trust. Bad things surely happen out there… somewhere? In the ether. To people who have irreparably sinned and deserve the consequences.
But no, not to anyone they know. Not anyone else on their saintly islands. They want to sleep soundly at night, knowing nothing bad could befall their children, their neighbors, and especially not them — provided they follow the rules.
There’s a place where bad things happen, for sure, but they don’t happen to good people. So they don’t happen here.
And it’s an easy thing to believe, until you’ve personally gone through something. I remember feeling this way myself, back when my skin was just as onion thin, before I lived a life that gave me so many unpleasant stories to tell.
So please, they say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Let us have this, they say. This fever dream of perfection, of safety. Please let us have just a few years longer where we can stave off misery.
And as they do, they discount recounted atrocities as mere inconveniences. They look for ways to lay the blame “on both sides.” They like to remind us that there are two (or more) sides to every story — a safe cliche, one built on a seed of truth, and something they know sounds quite fair. But when their guard is down, when they’re lying in bed at night staring at their ceilings pondering their own mortality, they know they’re not really motivated by fairness. That this private self is moved more by erasing the sin, the human hypocrisy, and the pain. Eliminating potential threats to their inner peace.
But they convince themselves it’s fairness. They tell everyone it’s fairness.
Because they want the world to be fair. For it to be just.
So please, they say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
No stories with loose ends, they say. Nothing that challenges their ability to sleep at night. Give them fairy tales where they know who the hero and villain are and how it’s going to ultimately end when the story begins. Anything else will be immediately discarded as lies or exaggeration.