Life Lessons Include Thinking Before You Speak

This is the first column in a two-part series on life’s “learning lessons” through the medium of quotes and their in-depth meanings. Today, we will discuss mankind’s role in nature, forgiving, hard work, play and humility, advice, humor, and holding our tongues.

Quotes are words of inspiration that guide us in living productive lives. Some might say they are just cliches used over and over again. There’s a very good reason for that. It’s simple: They have universal qualities. They were true in the past, are true now, and will be true in the future.

Here are my notes and anecdotes regarding the following personal quotes I developed from a lifetime of learning:

“Of all the creatures on Earth, mankind is the best of the best … and the worst of the worst.”

Notes & Anecdotes: Without question, man has come a long away in the area of technology, making our lives safer and much more productive. Furthermore, mankind can boast of the beauty of our fine arts and intellectual culture: dance, music, poetry, prose, beautiful edifices, sculptures, paintings, various philosophies and religious doctrines that promote wholesome living.

On the other hand, no other creature on Earth knowingly commits murderous acts, exhibits jealous tendencies, displays hatred, commits a myriad of cruel, criminal activities, declares wars — and on and on. Even the most vicious animals only kill to survive. For example, horrible shark attacks are not emotionally triggered, but are instinctive acts simply out of the desire to eat. Likewise, docile pets exhibit unconditional love and affection unequaled by the majority of us humans.

Oh yes, we still have a long way to go.

“Revenge is easy; the tough one is forgiving.”

Notes & Anecdotes: On the surface, we might easily say, “Yes, I can forgive.”

But what if someone committed a horrendous act against a member of your family, betrayed you regarding an important matter or a terrorist was about to murder you? Then, the ability to forgive becomes much more difficult.

I am reminded of one innocent man who was about to be executed, being falsely accused. His response to his accusers was a simple: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.”

Could you or I do the same?

I wonder.

“Work hard, play hard … and sit in the last pew of the church.”

Notes & Anecdotes: Whatever your profession is — do your best to be the best in the field you have chosen to pursue. Being mediocre at your job should not be a personal option. Set goals in your occupation — and work hard to achieve them.

Yes, take your work seriously, but not yourself — because that’s the beginning of arrogance.

After work, it’s time to bond and have fun with family, friends, etc. Enjoy free time to the fullest. You have earned it, having demonstrated the utmost dedication to your job as a breadwinner.

Finally, you should also possess humility, thanking God for your life, time on Earth, possessions, and the natural talents you have been given. As for myself, there are three matters that humble me the most: “the Holy Trinity, the innocence of a child, and the vastness of our Universe.”

“Always listen to the advice of the most experienced person … because he is the one who has made the most mistakes.”

Notes & Anecdotes: Lessons in life are learned by trial and error, and mostly error. The more experience an individual has in life or in a specialized field, the more the mistakes build up before accomplishing a terminal goal. In essence, he learns not to make the same mistakes in the future.

So, if you decide to commit your individual skills to a particular trade or profession — be it medicine, engineering, plumbing, teaching and coaching, technology, carpentry, etc. — always seek out the advice of the most experienced person in your chosen vocation. Should you fail to do so, you are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.

“Laughter is the secret of sanity.”

Notes & Anecdotes: Humor is so important to living a happy, fulfilling life. Laughter eliminates negative, unproductive thoughts and cleanses the mind and soul of various forms of stress. It promotes positive emotional stability and feelings of love and caring for each other.

Just as important, one must possess the emotional quality of being able to laugh at himself. The inability to laugh at our own acts of stupidity is a sign of arrogance.

Permit me to share my humorous moments as a teacher.

While teaching English at Wheeling Central in the mid-70s, I always decorated a Christmas tree in the classroom behind my desk. One day as class was in session, I was rocking in my swivel chair when I flipped backwards, crashing into the tree.

There was total silence in the room as I nonchalantly set up the tree again.

Sitting back down, I calmly stated, “OK, students, now where were we?”

The classroom exploded with laughter.

Then there was the time I was standing in front of the teacher’s desk, lecturing to my English 12 students. While I was speaking, a male student, D.J. Manners, sitting in the front muttered, “Mr. Welker.”

“Get quiet, D.J.”

“Mr. Welker.”

“Shut up, D.J.,” I grumbled.

“But, Mr. Welker.”

“What, D.J.!”

He stood up, walked over to me and whispered in my ear, “Your zipper’s down.”

I turned around, adjusted my zipper, thanked D.J., and sheepishly continued my lecture — just a bit embarrassed.

There were a few snickers.


“Dear Lord, teach me to know what to say … and what not to say.”

Notes & Anecdotes: How many times have you thought, “I wish I hadn’t said that.” We have all regretted our words at one time or another, especially during those moments when we were upset.

There’s another old adage that emphasizes biting your tongue before speaking: “You can recover your balance when you trip, but not your words when they slip.” This is exceedingly true with today’s technology; just ask Roseanne Barr.

My personal problem is that I am very opinionated and often speak my piece before I think that I might hurt someone’s feelings. It has cost me many friends over my lifetime.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a published column on the panhandler problem in our area. I made some very valid points, but the adjectives I used to describe these individuals were much too harsh. For that, I do have regrets.

Shame on me.

When you are angered or vehemently disagree and oppose another’s opinions, take a moment to reflect and relax, whispering a short prayer.

By doing so, you’ll surely know what to say and what not to say. Believe me, you will later be pleased that you held your temper in check.

Dr. Bill Welker, of Wheeling, can be contacted at