Socrates was one of the wisest men of the ancient world. Many were the youths whose lives he influenced for the better.
Socrates counselled his disciples to keep their mouths shut and speak only when absolutely necessary.
“O wise one, how may we know when it is right to speak?” they asked him.
“Open your mouths to speak only after you have asked yourselves three questions, and received an affirmative answer to each of the three,” replied Socrates.
What were the three questions?
The first question we must ask ourselves before we speak is— is it true? If we are not sure about the veracity of what we are saying, it is better that we do not utter a word. When we utter words carelessly, we ourselves become transmitters of untruth.
The second question to ask is— is it pleasant? Many are the empty remarks and vain statements that people make in idleness, to hurt others. It is better that these unpleasant words remain unspoken.
The third question according to Socrates is— is it useful? Is our statement going to benefit the listener? Will our words bring comfort to someone? Are we likely to help someone with what we say? Only in that case should we go ahead and speak.
An Eastern account of Jesus attributes the following statement to him, “A day will come when you will have to render account for every idle word you have spoken.”
We will all do well to remember this, we must answer— not merely for an untrue word, not merely for a bitter word, but for every idle word!
Is it true? Is it pleasant? Is it useful? These are the three questions we must ask ourselves before we speak.
Dada J P Vaswani is a humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader
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