"If You Can't Say Anything Nice..." - The Problem with the Thumperian Principle

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

My mother used to tell me that.

I tell my kids that.

But this Principle does not always apply.  In fact, it could actually cause you to sin when dealing with the emotion of anger.

Being angry is not a sin.  How you express your anger can lead to sin.  It's obvious that exploding your anger all over someone can be damaging.  But not expressing your anger can lead to sin as well.

What happens when we hide our anger?  It can boil up and stew inside, bubbling over in subtle but destructive ways -- avoidance, silence, curtness, sulking, pouting, impatience.  If we suppress our anger, it can cause us to blow up over unrelated, little incidents.  Or it might even result in seeking revenge.

Sometimes, it may be sinful not to express your anger.  Expressing feelings constructively lets others know how you feel so that changes can be made.  

Sometimes we don't know if we should turn the other cheek or if we should overturn the temple tables.  A situation may call for us to keep our mouth shut, while another situation demands a forceful response.  

I just finished reading Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian, by Ruth Koch & Kenneth Haugk.  It's been around for a while but I found it useful for both family and work relationships. The authors show how to handle anger and criticism and how to practically relate to others with honesty, compassion, and respect in difficult relational situations in a manner consistent with how Jesus wants us to live.  I'm going to keep this one in my library for future reference.


  1. Sounds like a book I could use. What are some of the suggestions they make?

  2. Good question! I should have added that to my post! Maybe I'll do a follow up post.

  3. Hi Paula! It seems to me that all those old adages always have exceptions, and I guess this one is like that. Holding in righteous anger is tough, and as your book pointed out, it might actually be instructive.
    All about our attitude I think. Correcting in love is what we are called to do!
    Just back from a blog break, and I have a new blog home too. It's been a crazy time! Good to see you again :)

    1. Hi Ceil! Glad to have you back in the blogging world! Thanks for stopping by in all your busyness. You new blog looks great!