Over the years, I have written many letters and many words, most of which were never read by others.  I got the anger and sarcasm off my chest by writing those words, but I decided against causing a lot of pain by sending those words out into the world.

A cardiologist I know, the  medical director of a cardiology program in the hospital where I was medical director, often sent letters that he obviously dictated, never read afterwards, and never let sit for a few days.  It fell to me, who was paid far less than he was, to reread the letters and tell the cardiologist what to write and what not to write.  Most of the letters would have been better off had he not written them.  The facts were not checked, the grammar was poor, and the point often could have been made with a lot fewer words or a telephone call.

With the onset of social media, it becomes very easy to comment on posts.  Many times, I have done so, only to delete the comment after it was written.  This morning, I started to reply to a comment on my comment, and finally just decided to let it go.

That’s really the secret:  knowing when to let something go.  If one insists on winning every battle and every argument, one may.  It is not a good way to live, and it almost guarantees failure of relationships with the opposite sex.  It took me far too long to realize that I needed to pick and choose those battles for which I would go to the mat on.  But even some of those, I would let the other person have the last word.  I’ve done that many times on Facebook, so I would not clutter up another person’s wall with my comments.

I often go to the mat on climate change, but I usually state my points and let the other person have the last word.  I make my five points very quickly:

  1. Is there anything I can say that will influence your thinking?  If the answer is no, then there is no use arguing.  We are now into the realm of ideology, faith, or religion.  I can be influenced about climate change; it is just that I require the following four statements to be present, and to date, they have not been.
  2. Can one state the argument without personalization?
  3. Will you use appropriate statistical terminology?
  4. Can you offer verifiable predictions to the Earth’s climate over the next 10-50 years?
  5. Can you state the consequences of your being wrong?

Once I have stated those issues and made my predictions, I have nothing further to add.  I will undoubtedly get something to read, which I will, until I see the first personalization of the argument, at which point I stop reading.

On gun control, which I also have strong feelings about, I am becoming more and more silent.  Like the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, it flares up from time to time, and nothing will change in my lifetime.  I knew nothing would change after Newtown.  There are people who honestly believe that the government–the same government they say can’t do anything right–is going to confiscate their guns; something that is not being said by anybody in government.  They will not be influenced by me, and I am never going to change the feelings I had when I saw the handgun my late father had, when I cleaned out his apartment.  I looked at the gun, and I saw evil and death.  From a gun.  No, it isn’t likely I will be influenced, either.  So what is the point in arguing, other than to say as a teacher I will NOT carry a gun?

Most letters I write are about a quarter longer than they need to be.  They say all the feelings I have in my mind at the time.  I don’t omit anything.  They are powerful….and they are wrong and hurtful.

Letters with these strong emotions I require to sit for three or four days, unless they are a letter to the editor, more time sensitive, in which case I still let them sit for a day.  In that time, I discover some of the things I want to say really aren’t going to help my cause, may hurt it, are repetitive, and need to be deleted.

Posts that are on this blog are never written without letting them sit at least a week.  Sometimes, even that isn’t long enough.  Sometimes, a week is long enough to let them never see the light of day.  I got the issue off my chest, and that is what I really needed to do.

I didn’t need to put it on somebody else’s chest.

The disadvantage of allowing people the last word is that some make the mistake that my silence is tacit approval.  That is not true.  I might have decided the battle wasn’t worth fighting.  When I do decide the battle is worth fighting, one best be ready with statistics, probability, facts, and no tolerance for personalization of the issue.  That is the price I pay for waiting, being silent, and not having to win every argument.

That price is worth paying.



  1. zohre Says:

    there are so many things that make me to be silent, one of them is that there is a possibility of my wrong judgment about the matter. But there are few things that I`m sure about them and it`s worthy enough to talk about them even with those people that I see them for few seconds in small store in neighborhood, and here are some of those; try to show the people that using plastic bags full of plastic things and throwing the plastic wastes in nature is not the good thing to do. very simple, is n`t it? but I think it`s so complicated…another issue not hurting animals, still simple but so complicated to teach, another, do not shoot each other that much easily, killing people is bad, simple?no war…simple? destroying planet earth, the place that we need it to be alive, is not good!!!! simple?… it`s a possibility that we never ever can change anything, cause we are not politicians, but I still feel that fighting for those things that we believe on them and there is no doubt about them, make our heart calm and make us to have smile on our face, despite of the fact that maybe there is no change.

    That price is worth paying

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