Former U.S. president Harry Truman had a rule: any letters written in anger had to sit on his desk 24 hours before they could be mailed. If at the end of the “cooling off” period, he still felt the same sentiments, he would send the letter. By the end of his life, the letters that Truman never mailed filled a large desk drawer.
How often in this age of immediate communication would even 24 minutes of wise restraint spare us embarrassment?
My calendar of sayings recently commented on the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue: “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison.”
When we are gossiping or speaking in anger, we find ourselves outside the lines of what our profession and professionalism should desire. Our tongues, our pens and even our keyboards should more often fall silent with restraint. When we “speak” in anger, we all too often remind others of our own brokenness. When we show restraint, there is another noticeable but silent message that honors our personal character by what we do and do not say.
This is not a message about anger management; rather, it is about professionalism, maturity and being realistic about our spoken and written words. The world is waiting for our intelligent input and evaluating who we really are by how we communicate in times of stress and passion.