Benjamin Franklin was our first great diplomat. He was renowned for his ability to converse and relate with friends and adversaries throughout the world. Yet, that was not always the case. Ben Franklin started out as a printer and later graduated to writing columns for one of the first newspapers in the colonies. A common practice in his day, he often wrote under the pen name, Mrs. Silence Dogood, . This allowed him to be acerbic, sarcastic, and attacking in tone.
While this scored points with a few, it cost him dearly. When he was discovered to be the author, he had to flee Boston with his employer brother James as a fugitive. In Philadelphia, writing under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, he changed his tone. One of his columns listed several key virtues that led to his later success as a skilled people person. His 13 virtues included the following reasons to speak well of everyone:
2) Silence - Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
4) Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5) Frugality - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
7) Sincerity - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
8) Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Dale Carnegie, in his landmark book How to Win Friends and Influence People, lists countless examples of how this approach can make your life better. Speaking well of people is a form of encouragement. Sowing the positive energy found in encouragement reaps the benefit of positive energy coming back to you, only later and greater than you sowed.
Encouragement is also found throughout the New Testament. Paul used it in almost all of his many epistles, especially Romans. He recommended it to groups facing persecution, death, and general lack of goodwill. Seems to have worked given the success of Christianity today.
But what about the person who doesn’t deserve to be spoken of positively or with encouragement? You know, the jerk who says nothing positive and mostly negative about you. Solomon and Paul repeated the wisdom of overcoming evil with good. Jesus pointed out, anyone can love someone who loves them. But Jesus reminded us that from God’s point of view, we are the jerks who continuously speak ill of His commandment when we do not love our brother as our self. As he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” So not only will you reap the benefits of receiving positive energy back to you today, but your eternal future looks even more positive.
Now how to change your current eye for an eye practice:
1) Pray to God to change your heart and fill it with encouragement and love for all your brothers.
2) Grab a little notebook and carry it with you everywhere. Every time you say something negative, write it down. Read them every night before bed and ask what you gained by the statements.
3) When you start catching yourself either refraining from giving life to the negative response or even better, something positive, write that down. Every night review those and see how you feel.
4) Repeat number 1-3 for 30 days, and see what happens.
5) Repeat until you run out notebooks.
This worked so well for Ben Franklin, that he is remembered to this day for “speaking no ill will against anyone.” So go ahead and become the 21st century Ben. It will be worth more than a few “Ben Franklin’s!”