I am sometimes reminded of the tale of the little boy who, at the age of seven, had never spoken. His parents took him to one expert after another, and all proclaimed that nothing was wrong with their son.
One night at supper the boy laid down his fork and announced in disgust, “This stuff tastes terrible.”
His astonished parents asked, “Son, why haven’t you ever said anything before?” The boy replied calmly, “Up until now, everything has been okay.”
Most of us share the all too common tendency to remain silent as long as everything is “okay.” Yet we are quick to speak out as soon as anything goes wrong, when a friend offends us or a loved one lets us down.
And when the tables are turned, when we fall from grace in the eyes of others, how loudly we lament that others point out everything we do wrong instantly but never notice all the things we do right!
Such experiences are disheartening. Over time they often lead to discouragement, to lost enthusiasm, and ultimately, to a deep sense of despair and personal failure.
The following lines by the poet Wilhelmina Stern speak to the cause of our human failure and the healing remedy:
She did not die of thorns
(As everyone supposes)
From a lack of roses.
There are thorns aplenty in life, able to pierce the staunchest human heart. Critics always hover near, waiting to fault our every effort and aspiration, eager to point out how far we have to go while ignoring how far we have already come.
Yet as the poet wisely observes, it isn’t the thorns in life that annihilate the human spirit — but rather, the absence of roses.
The sting of silence when we yearn for praise conveys more clearly than any words a complete indifference to the human heart.
We need the heady scent of roses most not only when we triumph, but every time we try. Such recognition creates a special buoyancy of spirit, a renewal of energy that creates in us the will and courage to go on.
In the days to come, in all our relationships, let us never forget the importance of roses. If we think about it, we all have some long overdue bouquets to deliver.