Why you should not gossip:

Keep this in mind the next time you are about to repeat a rumour or spread gossip.

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied, “Before you tell me I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?” asked the acquaintance. “That’s right,” Socrates continued, “Before you talk to me about Diogenes let’s take a moment to filter what you’re going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?” “No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates, “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?” “No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “You want to tell me something about Diogenes that may be bad, even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, “You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about Diogenes going to be useful to me?” “No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me or anyone at all?”

The man was bewildered and ashamed. This is an example of why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

To be fair it also explains why Socrates never found out that Diogenes was sleeping with his wife

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About Cittasamvaro

Auto blogography of an urban monk
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3 Responses to Why you should not gossip:

  1. Richard says:

    Great article… Socrates was indeed a great philosopher (regardless of his wife!).

  2. Cittasamvaro says:

    apparently his wife was something of a dragon, and he perhaps spent so much time in the market to avoid her. On the other hand he was known for not washing much, so maybe she was glad to keep him out of the house.

  3. Sara says:

    thank you.. gossip is SO easy to fall into… Good to have another memory jogger…

    Thinking about the advice the Buddha is quoted to have given to Prince Abhaya (Abhaya Rajakumara Sutta)
    helps us too… AS TO WHEN TO SPEAK AND WHEN NOT TO
    albeit on a rather more sophisticated level…

    “At that time a baby boy was lying face-up on the prince’s lap. So the Blessed One said to the prince, “What do you think, Prince, if this young boy, through your own negligence or that of the nurse, were to put a stick or a piece of gravel into his mouth, what would you do?”
    “I would take it out, Venerable Sir. If I couldn’t get it out right away, then holding his head in my left hand and crooking a finger of my right, I would take it out, even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have compassion for the young boy.”
    “In the same way, Prince:
    “As to words that the Tathagata knows to be untrue, incorrect, unbeneficial, unwelcome and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
    “As to words that the Tathagata knows to be true and correct, but unbeneficial, unwelcome and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
    “As to words that the Tathagata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, but unwelcome and disagreeable to others, he knows the proper time for saying them.
    “As to words that the Tathagata knows to be untrue, incorrect, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
    “As to words that the Tathagata knows to be true and correct, but unbeneficial, yet endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
    “And as to words that the Tathagata knows to be true, correct, beneficial, endearing and agreeable to others, he knows the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has compassion for living beings.”

    An extract from Majjhima Nikaya 58
    (Version edited by Steve Weissman, Wat Kow Tahm meditation teacher)

    So we correlate with Socrates here about need to be TRUE, and GOOD and USEFUL ( beneficial) , but the Buddha adds another factor – whether the listener is likely to want to hear it!

    So, even when all the good stuff is there – true, beneficial… one has to judge when is the proper time to say them!

    However – & maybe the most seductive for the speaker – even though “true and correct”, speech may be “endearing and agreeable” for their audience but be unbeneficial in the long term!

    And, sometimes our intended speech may lead to beneficial results but “unwelcome and disagreeable” for the intended listener, so we may have to put up with their disgruntledness…

    Not always that easy, eh!?

    eg. Applying this advice to written dialogue: Is the adulterous bit ‘true’ or just gossip? (… is it “beneficial” to read!?!?) 🙂

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