The Daily Stoic for October 5th, “Words Can’t Be Unsaid”.

“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.”

—ZENO, QUOTED IN DIOGENES LAERTIUS, LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, 7.1.26

Silence is golden”. This topic has been discussed in the daily stoic a lot, on “Silence is strength”, on “No harm, no foul”, and on “What’s better left unsaid”, to name a few.

Can we add something to the discussion?

Words Can’t Be Unsaid

Into the home street, remembering
What we said the night that followed
Words whispering, memories, hang bright
they will remain with us forever

— Epic45, I’m getting too young for this, from “May your heart be the map”

So we all agree by now that sometimes it’s better to remain silent and not say something we can regret later on. But what if we said something cruel or hurtful already?

It doesn’t matter how stoic we become, we all will eventually trip with our tongues, as Zeno depicts above. When that has happened to me, my first feelings once I calm down is feeling terrible about myself, and kind of ashamed.

Ironically, it’s precisely that feeling that prevents me from taking action and apologizing. Just as fear prevents people from quitting a job they hate, becoming entrepreneurs or doing what they love, shame or bitterness prevents us from doing something as simple as apologizing at the right moment.

I think it’s never too late for a good old apology. A sincere one. There are many films where the main character goes on apologizing to people he or she has offended in the past. I don’t know if that’s feasible from a practical point of view, but I think it’s not that bad of an idea.

Perhaps we cannot go through our contacts, checking people we have affronted, like in those movies. But what we can do is, from now on, apologizing to people when we hurt their feelings or say something inappropriate.

Conclusion

Today’s Daily Stoic, “Words Can’t Be Unsaid”, discusses silence again as the best alternative when we are about to be hurtful or cruel with someone. I decided to talk about what happens if we fail and actually say those terrible words…

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