The Wisdom of Weighing Our Words

duct tape 2

Will Rogers once advised, “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.”

I need to remember this advice when I’m around famous people.

I am certainly not a celebrity, but one of my former students seemed excited to see me in Walmart last week. With a huge grin, she said, “You used to be my teacher.” I could sense her admiration, and it made me proud.

I recently saw former Governor Phil Bredesen in a Nashville bookstore. In a momentary state of mindlessness, I said aloud to him, “Oh, my, you used to be famous.”

He paused for only a second and admitted, “Yes, I used to be.”

I quickly apologized for my lack of finesse, but the deed had been done.

A few years ago I saw WSMV reporter Cynthia Williams in a shopping mall in Lebanon. I immediately recognized her and blurted out, “You’re Cynthia Williams!” I obviously thought she might be having an identity crisis!

When I was in college, I saw Ralph Emery in a Nashville Wendy’s restaurant. While I did not verbalize my excitement, I’m sure my public gawking made me appear foolish.

To those “famous” people whom I admire, please realize that I don’t intend to be a foolish groupie. Your present, past, or future fame has simply made a lasting impression on me.

Governor Bredesen, thank you (among many other acts) for bringing an NFL team to Nashville, for creating the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, and for founding Nashville’s Table for the homeless.

Cynthia Williams, thank you for writing children’s books and for reporting the news with grace and sophistication. You were a class act.

Ralph Emery, thank you for brightening the mornings of my early teaching career.

According to Horace Greeley, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures, and that is character.”

Even though I “used to be” a teacher and I’m certainly not famous, I hope my character has endured.

Solomon, a man whose character has endured for nearly three thousand years, “was wiser than all men . . . , and his fame was in all nations round about.” (1 Kings 4:31) As both a wise and famous king, he gave good advice when he penned these words in Proverbs 17:27-28: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint . . . . Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

I wish I had thought of this advice before I met Gov. Bredesen.

Whatever we are now, whatever we used to be, whatever we will be, and whatever we say, let it be to God’s glory.

Galatians 1:10, Titus 2:7, Ecclesiastes 3:7



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