To My Dear Sons:
No, I’m not talking about any form of hypertension or of heart disease. At least, not physical heart disease.
I’m talking about the slow, insidious emotional destruction of a marriage, of a friendship, of a family relationship, brought on by little silences.
People sometimes think that bearing insult privately is a noble act. And, in fact, our Torah gives many examples of bearing insult without saying a word. There is a time and place for that. But it is almost never a good idea within a relationship.
Abba and I have always been careful about how we speak to each other, in public and in private. We think about what we will say, and try never, ever to say something the other will perceive as hurtful. But we always talk.
It is very detrimental to harbor pain over a slight — real or imagined — without giving the source of your pain the opportunity to explain, to help you to hear what he or she really meant by the careless word, to apologize.
I’m not giving license for incessant kvetching. That doesn’t enhance friendship, either. Like any two-way communication, both sides are responsible for keeping peace, for giving the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst. But language is very tricky, and misunderstandings happen.
The very, very best advice our Torah ever gave was “don’t do unto your fellow that which is hateful to you.”
If you would not like discovering six months later, after no one can remember the exact words spoken, that something you said hurt your brother — he probably wouldn’t, either.
If you would not like to be deprived of the opportunity to explain, or even to say “I’m sorry, that’s not the way I meant it!” — you can be sure your wife would also be bothered.
Your speech, and also your lack of speaking, will play a great part in your success.
The models used in this post are engaged to be married in August, and give the writer and her husband a great deal of joy.