Dependent upon your love for film in general, or more specifically the words of Cameron Crowe, you will recognize the first half of the title above as the name of Jerry Maguire's Mission Statement. A magnum opus that gets him fired but unexpectedly kicks off his gratifying journey of rewarding self discovery. When most people think of a phrase of this sort, they usually associate it with negative connotations such as the aspects of a friend or loved ones’ physical features or mental prowess normally reserved for ridicule and disdain.
I see it a bit different. (Kevin Smith is hardly the only person capable of having a view askew.) I see The Things We Think But Do Not Say as representative of our fear from expressing the deep affection we feel for one another. Think about it for a moment; How often do you hear a person extol the virtues of another with unbridled enthusiasm? Now think about how often the person they are exalting is in the room when they do it.
Society exhibits this “He’s a wonderful human being, but don’t tell him I said that.” mentality for a multitude of reasons, almost all of which trace back to the analogous theme of fear. We have become so emotionally fearful in modern day America that if FDR proclaimed the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, a great majority of people would respond by suggesting he attempt to have intercourse with his fecal matter. (People in denial tend to be angry like that.) We fear potential rejection or ridicule when vulnerably looking someone we care for in the eye and telling them what they mean to us because the possibility exists that the reply will be crickets chirping, thus leaving us feeling like a comic who can't get the laugh due to something in their delivery and is now powerless to prevent himself from sweating beneath white hot lights. Conversely, we can tell other people anything and everything about a person we care for, liberated of any potential denial or humiliation and thus free to trip the night fantastic as we wax poetic over the virtues of someone who has carved out a niche in our hearts.
You may be getting the vibe that this subject is limited to only the most romantic of situations, but allow me to break into my best Lee Corso impression and state in one singular word “Notsofastmyfriend”. Not only is that not the case, but I would daresay this happens infinitely more often when the subject is friendship. Put yourself to the test: How many friends have you said "I love you" to directly? Now how many of those same friends have you spoken of in rapturous tones to others and stated, sometimes in so many words, "I love them to death." This is the point where you say to yourself in a rationalizing tone: "They know. They have to know after everything we've been through." Take it from someone who early on in life thought he had to always maintain an even strain and learned this lesson the hard way: Sometimes people just want and need to be told what they mean to you as if they have the IQ of Forrest Gump. Even a person possessing the most outwardly confident of personality has internal doubt and insecurity that gnaws away at them ever so slightly, waiting for someone to make like Bill Murray at the end of Lost In Translation and deliver a whispering vow of eternal solidarity only they can hear.
Don’t think about style points for they matter not. You don’t need to deliver a Shakespearian sonnet nor do you need to be as melodramatic as a typical character on Grey’s Anatomy. One of the most heartfelt moments of my life was when my younger brother Excrement looked at me during a New Year’s Eve party and simply said “Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.” It still makes me smile to this day (Yes, I know nicknaming my younger brother Excrement ruins the emotional punch. What can I tell ya? He loves the more common vernacular for the word. Nobody said true feeling was perfect.)
So take a word from someone who speaks the truth: Look a friend in the eye and speak to them like you would if they weren't in the room. You won’t be disappointed and may even be surprised by the heartfelt nature of their reaction. As for the warmth that will course through your own veins from speaking in such candid tones, that won’t exactly suck either. And to those of you who have come away from this vignette with the observation its nothing more than a self-absorbed plea for the people closest to me to do some expressing of their own… what do you want Sigmund, a cigar? (Sometimes they really are just cigars ya know.)
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