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The holiday season is upon us, and it’s not just what you say, it’s also what you don’t say

Christina Greer PH. D | 11/30/2017, 11:44 a.m.

It seems the older I get, the faster the holiday season approaches. I was just looking at pumpkins and fake spider webs, which have now all been replaced by Christmas trees, wreaths and even reindeer. Each holiday season I try to become extra mindful of all of my blessings, large and small. As millions of people frantically shop in stores and online, I am trying to do less consuming and work more on building a more deliberate life. In doing so, I am working on deliberate speech for the remainder of 2017.

I am pretty active on Twitter and have noticed that along with funny videos and uplifting stories, there is a plethora of negativity being spewed back and forth. I am not on Facebook or much social media at all, but I have seen several friends go down a rabbit hole for hours following online “beef,” which fills their timelines and their lives with negative energy. Some people choose to participate actively with critiques and insults, whereas others merely digest these things in a passive manner. Either way, the amount of tearing down online has become something in which many have become desensitized or participants without fully recognizing it. This problem came to my attention when I realized I was retweeting particular tweets that were not flattering about the president. Although I have incredibly strong feelings about the current occupant of the White House, I have been spending a disproportionate amount of time criticizing and mocking him on almost a daily basis. For the remainder of the year, I am going to try to practice positive speech. That is, before I say or write something negative, I will think about it and see if I can reaffirm as opposed to insulting (no matter how banal) or tearing down.

I’ve chosen the holiday season to work on this particular matter because during these next few weeks, those who are religious will be thinking of the birth of Christ and others will also be thinking of the blessing that is a new year. Individuals who follow Buddhist principles know that Right Speech is the third of eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, and it belongs to the virtue division of the path. Right Speech is defined as “Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech and from idle chatter.” I suspect that for myself and for many others, it is the abstaining from idle chatter that will be the most difficult. It has also been fascinating to observe how idle chatter can quickly turn into divisive and abusive speech.

Therefore, for the next few weeks as the seasons continue to change and the holiday season envelopes us, I will be thinking more clearly and deliberately about what I say. I do hope you will join me.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.