Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. —Romans 13:4 (KJV)

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

Good advice, followed all too rarely.

Some, it seems, never get past the first two words.

Speak softly.

They never wield the big stick, and so their soft speech is only an effeminate emphasization of their weakness.

You have to carry the big stick. You have to bear the sword, and not in vain. Then you get to speak softly. When you speak softly thus armed, the softness is ominous, like the still before a storm. This is a world apart from the soft speech that rises from cowed timidity.

Learn to tell the difference. In yourself, and in others. Learn to see who has no stick, who has a stick but doesn’t know how to use it or is afraid to do so, and who is supremely confident in its use.

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. —Luke 14:31-32 (ESV)

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