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Seek ye the good… June 7, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Random Musings, Theological Reflection.
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Café Mocha, Biggleswade

Café Mocha, Biggleswade

So there I was, doing my stint in Café Mocha, Biggleswade, and a customer was telling me his life story, as they do. If you’ve ever worked in a café you’ll be familiar with this: if you’re willing to listen, you’ll soon become privy to everyone’s innermost secrets. I think the same thing happens in barber shops and hairdressers.

This particular gentleman told me about a piece of doggerel he’d discovered on a mug many years ago: it had stuck in his mind and had a profound effect on his attitude to other people:

Seek ye the good in every man
Speak of all the best ye can
Then will all men speak well of ye
And say how kind of heart ye be

It was written, of course, in the days when men were men, and so were the women. These days, men are men, women are women and the rest of us are either transgendered or wish we were: it clearly needed rewriting for an inclusivist era. I consulted my inner woman and this is what we came up with:

Seek ye the good in everyone
Speak not ye ill of anyone
Then will all speak well of ye
And say how kind of heart ye be

It almost works, but there’s a significant difference, we think, between speaking the best you can of someone and not speaking ill of them. So, a competition is called for: can you do better? Can you come up with a version that still rhymes and scans, is inclusivist, and retains the original emphasis? Your prize will be the satisfaction of doing better than we could 🙂

But it set me thinking in other directions too: part of me wants to cheer and say it’s a great principle to live by; another part of me says actually, it’s plain daft — whilst we can do our best to speak the best of everyone, if that’s all we ever do we’re in serious danger of becoming hypocrites: isn’t it better to be honest and if someone’s being a prat, tell them so? And whilst it may feel good to have everyone speaking well of us, isn’t there a danger there too? A danger that Jesus warned us about:

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

So maybe, just maybe, our version is an improvement on the original? And when we see bullying, hypocrisy, injustice, unethical or unfair business practices, I guess we’re just gonna have to accept that some people out there won’t like us speaking out about it. As someone else far wiser than me once said, the only thing evil needs to succeed is for those who know better to remain silent…

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Comments»

1. Norman McIlwain - June 8, 2010

Hi Phil. – I thought I would take a look at your personal blog after reading your excellent comments on the ‘Kingsway’ approach to pricing.

OK. I will give it a try.

To the above poetic adage,
I will add a warning appendage:

Seek the good of everyone,
Speak well, yet flatter none.
And then, if all speak well of you –
Beware! It just might not be true.

Phil Groom - June 9, 2010

Good one, Norman: thanks; and thanks for the positive feedback: much appreciated.

2. fragmentz - June 8, 2010

‘These days, men are men, women are women and the rest of us are either transgendered or wish we were’

the wish we were made me nearly spit my tea out. thanks for making my mouth smile today Phil 🙂 x

Phil Groom - June 9, 2010

Glad you enjoyed it 😀 x

3. Mel Menzies - June 27, 2010

Hi Phil,

Like Norman (whom I don’t know) I took a look at your personal blog, as a result of reading some of the excellent guest posts on your christianbookshop blog. Couldn’t resist the challenge above – hence:

Look for the good in all you meet
Speak well of their every feat,
Then will they all speak well of you,
Your kindness of heart their cue.

4. Guy Willis - October 29, 2013

Seek out the good in every man
And speak of all the best you can
Then will all men speak well of thee
And say how kind of heart you be

C/o Sampler worked by M.A.F.


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