Because social media are demonstrating that many are comfortable speaking ill of the dead, allow me to offer five honest and appropriate things to say when someone you didn’t particularly like passes away:
- “He was one-of-a-kind, and had no equal. . . . They broke the mold the day they made him.” Perhaps this means no one could get under your skin quite the way he did, or you believed this was the worst person in the world, but all of us are unique works of our Creator, and it never hurts to acknowledge that.
- “He never quit. It was like he didn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘quit.’” You may have often wished he would quit, but he did not. Everyone suffers setbacks and disappointments and defeats. Your hated rival did as well, and at some point, much to your frustration, he demonstrated the ability to carry on. Also, you may secretly believe that he genuinely didn’t know the meaning of common words.
- “He lived life with passion, and a fire in the belly that everyone could envy. No matter the challenge before him, he faced it with grit and determination.” This is the past-tense version of Eli Lake’s “I love your passion,” which is a compliment that is less flattering than it sounds, particularly when it is not tied to any positive assessment of competence, skill, or accomplishment.
- “His passing brings great sorrow and a tremendous sense of loss to his loved ones, and I hope his grieving family and friends can find peace.” Come on, you’re not so much of a monster that you enjoy seeing people grieving, right?
- “As saddened as we all are by his passing, we can take solace in the knowledge that he’s in a better place now.” Maybe you think the better place for him is Hades, but you’ll keep that part to yourself. Saying something like this conjures up images of the heavenly gates and the warm embrace of our Creator, and you appear magnanimous and big-hearted for publicly saying so about a person opposed so vehemently.