Never Explain Anything

Submitted by on Tuesday, March 5, 2013No Comments

A Good Explanation Never Explain Anything

Never Explain Anything. Never Explain Yourself.

Words are not Truth; Words can point to the Truth. As soon as you use words to explain the Truth, you take away from the Truth. Does this mean we should never explain ourselves? Does this mean that we should never explain anything? Does this mean that if we never explain anything we will not detract from the Truth? Does this sound like a logical & philosophical nightmare I’m determined to tackle? Yes. This is what I hope to address in this – my longest article ever.

“Never Explain. Never Apologize.”

One morning I found myself explaining a joke I’d performed that I thought was going to be funny. I knew it wasn’t going to be funny as soon as it left my mouth… But too late!

Was one of those jokes that, once it’s left the gate, you can’t even say, “Oh nevermind. Bad timing. It’s not going to be funny.” Because the mere fact you said it is going to raise eyebrows. There is an art to joke-telling and story-telling and normally I’m pretty savvy but today would turn out to end badly due to something having nothing to do with this and I cannot help but wonder how much of my Highly Sensitive Sense picked up on that universal ripple…and hence the bad timing…the bad rhythm, and etc.

The joke I thought would give her a laugh had hurt her feelings. Then I explained why I thought it would be funny; Tried to explain why it was a joke. She’s thinking I must have really meant the question [which was the joke], otherwise why would I have asked it she wanted to know. “You must really think it,” she’d said.

So after explaining the shit out of myself, and feeling her hurt feelings (and mine, too, due to her thinking I thought of her in that way…) I pull the Zen A Day calendar’s previous page off a little later to ready for my day and see a la Synchronicity

A Good Explanation: Never Explain Anything

A good explanation:
never explain anything.
Zen saying

I laughed so hard. And not because I thought it was telling me I shouldn’t have explained myself to my friend – and I’ll get to that later – but because the timing of viewing the word “explain” was perfect AND the perfect reflection of how I felt which was, I’ll never be able to explain to her how that should have gone.

Love for Language, Words, and Expression

The Arts of English was one of my college majors because I love language and words; I love the human expression. Words and expressions can be poetry, beauty, and power; Can creatively infuse, inspire, and empower. We can weave a story or tell a tale from our perspective and imagination and the effect upon the listener or reader can change lives and paradigms. One’s choice of words can be psychologically revealing; from Freudian slips and subconscious desires to understanding the truthful feelings of a person whose words may be contradictory.

First, Some Words About Words

  • Explaining means words and what are words?
  • Are they ever the truth?
  • Can they point to the Truth?
  • Can they point to Illusion?
  • Is (what we call) a ‘tree’ REALLY ‘a tree?’

As soon as we use language we create division. It is exclusionary. And exclusionary isn’t bad. Exclusionary is taxonomy and is how we share information with each other: When I say, “The vehicle that hit that old gnarly oak tree is a silver 4 door car,” you get an image in your head and you understand what I am telling you. But is what I am telling you The Truth? No. I am using my words to explain the Truth of MY Reality, at best. What you have now, is not The Truth, but a mere image in your imagination that I just put there; and it’s not The Truth even in my reality; I just made it up. [Don’t knock imagination; It’s important; More important than knowledge, especially if we’re co-creators of our reality.]

How Words Take away from the Truth

The Truth stands on its own; That’s what truth is. Lies need a defense and believers. Truth needs nothing. Whether 5 Billion people think the Earth is flat or not, it doesn’t matter. The Earth will continue to be round if that’s The Truth. The problem with throwing ‘Truth’ around is that lots of people – who don’t know – think they know what ‘Truth’ is. So there’s the thing. Their attachment to their ideas, they think, is the Truth. Their opinions, they think, are the Truth. The Illusions they follow, they think, are the Truth. And meanwhile, everyone’s miffed at each other for not believing their version of Truth.

Although Truth needs nothing to be Truth, it may sometimes get words or explanations that point to it, to be recognized as Truth; To cast a light, if you will, for those who are searching for it. It’s dark in the woods and a tree stump is 3 feet in front of me. Whether I believe the stump is there or not is irrelevant; If I do not turn on my flashlight and recognize ‘the Truth,’ I am going to trip over it.

A few common examples in which words take away from truth:

  • “Who are you?” [In desiring to be honest, you answer with your name, but are you your name?]
  • “Are you going to be late?”  [Do you always know what the future looks like?]
  • “Do you believe in God?” [If you answer no, they think you’re an atheist; If you answer yes, they think you believe in the God they believe in.]
  • “Favorite color?” [If you answer purple thinking they mean ‘for clothes’ you may be upset when you come home to your walls painted purple.]

The horribly wonderful quality of words is that they can be intentionally perverted, beautifully woven, plainly stated, played with, confusingly pontificated, allegorically alliterated, illustriously prevaricated, unintentionally mis-expressed, horrifically hyperbolicized, reflectively romanticized…and you see what I am doing here right? And it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, V for Vendetta.

Words are Symbols – Can Point to Truth or Illusion

V for VendettaWords can be mighty; Words can be weak. Words can harm; Words can heal.

Words can harm when people use Truth as license to logorreah their opinions based in dishonest motives that masquerade as truth. And THAT’s the backdrop; A lie. So if the motive is subversive, then any ‘truth’ that may be revealed, shared or thrown into the wild might be considered the ‘bad fruit’ that comes from ‘the bad tree.’

Conversely, words can also heal when people use them in a way some might say as ‘dishonest.’ I call this dishonesty creativity/art/metaphor…a joke (that does NOT go badly). No one screams at the movie theater during the showing of V for Vendetta, “Liar!” when Evee (played by American accented Nathalie Portman) has a British accent. No one screams at the movie theater manager, “I need my money back. It said Hugo Weaving was in this and I see him nowhere.” And if I’m not playing a character on this stage of life, I shall kiss your foot thusly!

Politicians use lies to cover up the truth.
Artists use lies to reveal it.
Evee, V for Vendetta

Words Pointing to Lies

Words themselves are not The Truth – in any sense – but they can point to Truth or A Deeper Truth than the one we may currently be in awareness of. And this is their value. Or, if you wish to embrace Illusion, this too, can be brought about by words and language. And there’s a value for that as well.

Believing Words & Choosing Illusion

A Codependent or enmeshed partner or friend might…Believe the words, “I didn’t steal your money,” despite seeing his crack-addicted girlfriend go into his wallet and discovering that his $69 from the night before is now missing. A friend might believe her friend is sober because her friend says all the ‘right’ A.A. or 12 step phrases. A spouse might believe in the hope and promise of “I’m sorry. I’ll never hit you again. AND I am done drinking; I swear it!” (Like he’s promised the last 11 Saturdays on the heels of the last 11 Fridays.) A codependent prone personality might ignore or discount her own feelings for the belief of someone else’s words.

Sermon on the Mount by Emmet FoxNot Believing Words & Choosing Truth

The clear-minded Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), for example, HEARS a prevaricator’s words but [empathically, psychically, energetically] FEELs the contradiction; Maybe SEES the overplayed or forced body language; Intuitively SENSES a conflicting internal belief or truth. Et voila. Our HSP has a new and perhaps different understanding of “Truth” that will later be validated as a Spiritual Demonstration* (metaphysically) if she is searching for such a thing. So that when it comes into her awareness that the person who seemed so kind (or ‘one way’) at the time (from all outward appearances) had internal motives non-conducive to their outward ‘play’ she is validated as being able to trust her intuitive understanding. Of course, for the teenage HSP me, I had to get lots of drunk ons and sufferings to get to that point of understanding that words did not necessarily match up with Truth. (*To learn more about Demonstrations, the book Sermon on the Mount goes into greater depth or read more about Manifesting the reality we currently find ourselves in.)

“Never Explain Anything?”

Mostly, yes. Mostly, do not explain. BUT. First we have the spiritual understanding of what to “never explain” means. Then we have the day to day living version of “never explain.” For example, the saying, “Never Explain. Never Apologize,” or the term, “Never Explain Yourself,” or “Never Explain Anything” might not be the smartest move for your lifestyle desires if …

  • Your boss asks where you were yesterday.
  • Your teacher asks you to explain the math problem.
  • Your child asks you why condoms are important.

Life, Recovery, 9th Step Amends and Explaining

So as much as I love the Zen saying in its Spiritual or Philosophical sense, clarity and sanity of mind can dictate appropriate explanations. And it’s a subjective experience to be be sure. If you don’t mind getting fired, look forward to homelessness, or wish to practice ‘manifesting abundance’ by all means, do not explain anything to your boss. If you don’t mind not getting into college, explain nothing to your teachers. And if you don’t mind your child getting an STD or pregnant, don’t explain condoms.

In alcoholic recovery we might be learning about our relationship disruptions that our alcohol use contributed to. We might recall drunkenly stealing our Mom’s car in the middle of the night or fighting our sister while stupidity and numbness simultaneously coursed our veins. To proffer the, “Never Explain. Never Apologize,” mitote is to okey-doke my errors. “Gee whiz. I was drunk.” or “Golly gee. I barely remember so it doesn’t count.”

9th Step:
“Made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Alcoholic recovery is about becoming responsible for ourselves and this is WHY we have the 9th step. I could blame it on alcohol and excuse it with an “I was drunk,” but how is that enabling reparations for my relationships? As an alcoholic, I DRANK over guilt. Well, hell. I drank over anything…But as a sober member of society and growing as a Spiritually Mature Human Being, I am going to want to make amends AND not excuse my behavior. This does not mean I ‘explain away’ my actions OR explain-to-excuse them. This also does not necessarily mean I even have to ‘explain’ my biochemistry or psychology. I just tell the truth: I stole your car Mom; I was drunk and I lied to you. Your feelings were right about that night and I’m sorry for not just stealing the car but for also not taking responsibility at the time and leading you to believe you couldn’t trust what you thought to be true.

In codependent recovery we might grow to understand a term called boundaries. Great term, boundaries. We begin to understand that the entire world doesn’t need to have a piece of our mind, pieces of our full-hearted trust without warrant; That we need not try to explain our motives or perceptions to unsafe or untrustworthy people; That we need not always explain ourselves to even SAFE people. We begin to trust and honor ourselves. We even might start to drop some illusions and believe more in the who we are than the who we think we’re not. We’re becoming present human-beings without the need (or with a lessening one) to justify, explain or excuse. We are being.

8th & 9th Step Amends: If we’re following the 12 steps to recovery we have a 9th step that sounds like an explanation to another human being. And this might sound strange and antithetical to the saying “Never Explain. Never Apologize” or to the Zen saying, “A good explanation: Never explain anything,” and it also might be confusing to the newcomer to Codie Recovery.

“Never Explain. Never Apologize.” You can take that to mean, “Never explain who you are. Never apologize for who you are.” This doesn’t mean you can’t explain your gaffe or offer an empathetic or sympathetic apology for, say, a ‘wrong’ you committed back during your insanity or drunken stupor. A person in ‘sanity’ at this point is well aware we are not our gaffes, mistakes, or our past for that matter.

Codependency: Let’s say you lied – you used your words to mislead someone into an illusion because your ego/dis-ease mind needed something from them. Or you otherwise intentionally betrayed someone and your conscious has been bothering you; You put that person on your 8th step and make appropriate amends on your 9th. As for what constitutes appropriate, you will have worked steps 1 – 8 at this point and so should have some sanity, but in case of confusion, ask for help from someone who’s also sane, recovering, and/or who has been through it. Ask for their experience.

At this point I hope I am making my intention clear that BOTH “Explain” and “Do Not Explain” have room in the human experience. And if you disagree and wish to think or believe that one should literally, “Never Explain,” good! There’s room in the human experience for that too.

Communication & Explanations

So back to my friend and joke that she took as a worrisome view on what she thought I thought of her. Explaining something to someone who desires to understand you, who doesn’t get where you were coming from or what happened but desires to know, will hopefully allow you and your friend a merging into forgiveness, sympathy, a strengthening bond, or a laugh or two. And desire to understand is the key. Maybe this is what the Zen saying has been meaning the entire time.

A Good Explanation: Never Explain Anything” might really be just a testament of “Living the Truth” as opposed to “Explaining the Truth.” Because words can form expressions that attempt to prevaricate or pervert the Truth; While “Living the Truth” is just that. My friend knows who I am. She knows I value and love her. She knows I would never intentionally hurt her. She can trust our relationship and she can trust me. These are Truths that I DO know she knows. So that when she desired an explanation or a clarification, she really did want one. She really was seeking to understand. And this is appropriate.


Words can be the expressive vehicle toward truth, lies or illusions. They can be misunderstood. The one using them may not be perfect at expressing herself or the one listening may not be perfect at understanding. You get two ‘human abilities’ together with different brains, personalities, psychology, experiences, culture, education, beliefs or non-beliefs, opinions or non-opinions, and there you have it. [I delve more into how and why to not take things personally in Release from Opinions.]

Or even if one is ‘perfect’ in expression and 99 out of 100 people would ‘agree,’ the one who doesn’t agree might be the one person the ‘perfect’ speech is trying to communicate with. OR if 99 out of 100 people DISAGREE that the execution was ‘perfect’ there is the one who completely gets what the deliverer intended. So what does this tell you? This tells me that it doesn’t matter the how or why the misunderstanding if BOTH the INTENT to understand and the intent to be understood is present.

Sarcasm vs. Facetiousness


More about Sarcasm

Then there’s Sarcasm; That one type of remark or response we hear and prickle at. OR that specific remark we might not know how ‘to take.’ Sarcasm may be a version of misunderstanding since we may assume something to be sarcastic when it’s not; The person really MAY mean, “Your hair is beautiful today!” despite your insecurity over your hair or despite your thought that it looks horrible. AND the person may REALLY mean, “Your hair looks like junk,” despite the words, “Your hair looks beautiful.” In this case, sometimes people hide behind sarcasm.

I go into Sarcasm in part 4 of the Words can Harm & Words Can heal series of posts which I will probably need to now update with the following since a perfect convergence of situations left a lot to that ‘series.’ But it still might be worthwhile even before I update it so have a look if you’re inclined. :)

There’s also Facetiousness. Two people may make almost the same statements and both are being ironic or mocking. One, however, might be sarcastic while the other is based in playful irony or mocking. The difference between the two may be hard to define but the difference is a matter of intent.

fa·ce·tious [fuh-see-shuhs]
1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
2. amusing; humorous.
3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous

Not all irony or mocking is Sarcastic
Not all Facetiousness is ironic or mocking.

Need Clarification? Ask.

If you desire to know what the person meant behind the words and you don’t understand, ask. And if you receive clarification or an explanation, believe it or not. Being autonomous beings means we have the choice to believe their ‘more words’ or not. If we still do not understand, that is not the choice. We have brains, filters, unique psychologies, experiences, and fallibility so truly not understanding is hardly the choice; The choice is believing or not; Trusting or not.

Codependency, Ego, Self-Esteem, Control: A particular note for when you don’t ‘like’ the clarification: For those who think that asking for RE-clarification a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time might mean the explanation will somehow change with each newly phrased question or haranguing, it’s no longer a conversation. It’s now turned into an inquisition; A battle. At this point you don’t want clarification; You want to win the answer you want. Watch how this happens:

What did you mean when you said, “I want to break up?” I meant, “I’m breaking up with you and a moving truck will be here tomorrow.” “Did you REALLY mean, ‘I love you so much and I fear commitment so I am leaving?'” “No. I meant, ‘I am breaking up with you.'” “So what I am hearing is that you still love me but you want some space?” “I’m not sure what you are hearing but I am telling you ‘We are over.'” “Well, do you want me to call in sick tomorrow and help you move in?” “No. I want you to hear what I am telling you. We are over.” The person in green had been practicing Broken Record from the Book: When I Say No I Feel Guilty.]

Final Thoughts: Clarification v. Explaining

Clarification versus ExplanationSo there we are, just ‘being’ and one day… We might feel the undeniable urge to explain ourselves to someone who is hell bent and determined to misunderstand us, skew the intent, or malign our meaning. Can you imagine what it would look like if the conversation above had been met with a “Why?” Would the person moving out had gotten very far in ‘explaining why?’

Offering Clarification is not offering an Explanation.

Getting clarification of what the person means by their words is not the same as getting an explanation of why the person means their ‘what.’ But we often intermix the two as we express ourselves. I want to make this clear lest anyone takes a literal view of ‘explaining nothing’ and thinks this means, “I should never clarify what I mean.” Feel free to, of course, not clarify what you mean but then you run the risk of assumptions.

As a human being expressing myself in this incarnation maybe I desire for my story or parts of it to be understood. Maybe I do not want to only clarify my words or expressions, but why my expressions and what I really desire for you to understand about me or what I am expressing. But other times, I may not have any such desire.

Why I Might Choose to Not Explain:
“Because I do not want to.”

Do not Explain to those who want to misunderstand you!

1.) Some people are determined to misunderstand us. No matter what we say or how we say it, their paradigm – either their world view or in this particular situation – is such that they are antagonistic toward our expression or explanation; These folks do not desire to understand what we are saying or meaning. Maybe they are not like this, in general, but in a particular situation maybe they are battling their own issues. [“What do you mean ‘water is wet?'” Well, you know, it’s wet. “How do YOU know? Define wet!” Wet is the opposite of dry. “Yeah well. You didn’t define dry!” Okay. Um. Arid. “What? Like a desert?” Yeah. A desert is arid. “So you’re saying water is the antonym of ‘desert.'” Well no. “So you’re calling me a liar now!” Oh.. No. I don’t think you’re understanding me. “Oh I’m understanding you just fine. According to you, I am a liar.”]

2.) Some people cannot understand us. Maybe they have the desire to understand us but they do not have the ability to receive what we are saying or we do not have the ability to send what we are saying; Maybe they have mind blocks, a different primary language, or maybe we lack the ability to clarify or explain ourselves to them in a meaningful way. [Water is wet. “Water is nat.” Water is not wet? “Nee. Water is nat.” Water is not your knee? I know that. I am saying water is wet! “Ja, water is nat!” Huh?]

3.) The Corrector. ‘Why’ is an excellent way to share and get information or more insight as to a person’s intent.  But with “Correctors” – and you can sense who they are right off – their why is concerned more with correcting you. [Water is wet. “Why did you say that?” I wanted to express it. “Why, though?” I don’t know. “But isn’t water also not dry?” Yes. “Well why wouldn’t you say that water is not dry?” I don’t know. “Why not?”]

4.) The Collector. These goodly people seemingly want to understand or are understanding what we are saying. They nod at the right places; They share personal anecdotes of similar experience. Of course, next week when you go back to school work and find that topics of your one on one conversation have made the rounds at the cafeteria water cooler, you may realize that your new friend is a gossip. [Water is wet. “I know! What do you think about that?” I think it might like to be dry sometimes. “You do?” Yeah. It might get depressed being wet all the time. “I agree. It’s terrible!” [Tomorrow] Classmate Co-worker: “I have a cup of water that seems depressed. Do you think it needs therapy or is it just all wet?”]

5.) The Crazy-Maker. Similar to the ones who are determined to misunderstand us (#1), ‘Crazy-Makers’ can employ any of the above tactics because their primary goal seems to be to either make someone look foolish or themselves look ‘better.’ Particularly skilled at doing this in public or on social media, they love to belittle, demean or point out the flaws in clarifications or explanations. Their operational backdrop is to malign your information or skew your intent. If you feel yourself enjoying a trip to Crazy-Land, you may have just been in contact with a crazy-maker.

So these are a few groups of people I might abide the “Never Explain Anything” philosophy to. And sometimes I won’t explain just because I just don’t want to and don’t even care enough to search out a reason. My life on this planet is too valuable to waste my time hurting my head trying to figure out WHY I don’t want to explain something. Often I don’t even want to explain my own thoughts to myself. They’re just thoughts, subject to ebb and flow like everything else. And if this is often the case, as it is, how could I even explain myself to anyone else even if I wanted to? At that point, I’m just making up a story as either an excuse to be polite or to not seem weird or rude. And I’m okay being thought of as however someone needs to think of me.

trying to understand some people is like trying to smell the color 4

despite trying to understand other people or despite trying our best to be understood,
sometimes they’re the color 4 and sometimes we are.

Do you want to Explain?

So what do you think? What do you think about the Zen A Day “Never Explain Anything?” Should we interpret the Zen phrase literally and never explain? And if that’s a ‘good explanation’ then what is a ‘bad explanation?’ And is a tree REALLY a tree? And what does the color 4 smell like anyway? Feel free to explain any, some or all of the above. Or none!


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