In Life__in a marriage, in business, at work, in everyday living__never say anything that you cannot take back; especially so, if it doesn’t concern you!
Words are easy to spill. And so very difficult to gather back again. And words come over us easily too. Most people who make baseless statements about others, in the end, are as much affected as the victims of their verbal assaults are.
In social circles and in business workplaces, such loose talk is called gossip, at its most banal level, or called politics in its vicious avatar! Either way, the damage it causes to the fabric of relationships is the same __ it is immense! Because when you gossip or indulge in politicking, it is virtually condemnation without trial of the subject(s). In a context involving two people too, it causes irreparable damage. For instance, in a fit of rage, however justified your reasons may be, if you scream at your companion, “I wonder why I even met you in my Life in the first place?”, then, consider that relationship as over. Words so spoken maime the soul. They cannot be taken back even if you spent a lifetime apologizing. You may be forgiven, eventually, but the memories of the words you spoke will never be forgotten.
There’s a way to check such, perhaps even unintentional, indiscriminate and irresponsible use of words. Spiritual thinker and my Guru Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) advises us to remember the Sufi principle of the “three Gateways of speech”.
The Sufis advise us to speak only after we have managed to pass through three Gateways, or checkpoints, first:
1. At the first Gateway we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?”. If yes, we let our words move to the next Gateway.
2. At the second Gateway we ask ourselves, “Are these words necessary?” If they are, we let our words move to the final Gateway. If not send those words back without uttering them!
3. At the third Gateway, we ask, finally, “Are they kind?”. If yes, speak them. If not, make those words kind and then speak them.
Every encounter or event in Life is an opportunity to invite ourselves or be tricked or provoked into saying something. At times it is an opinion we like to share. Or an advice that we insist on giving. Or a judgment that we wish to pronounce. Or we want to flatter someone to get something in return. Or we simply say something for the sake of making our presence felt.
There could be a zillion more scenarios tempting you to speak. To throw words out, mindlessly, meaninglessly, unsolicited at most times, solicited too at some times. It is pertinent to remember that you don’t have to speak every single time there’s an opportunity or a provocation though. And the few times you must really speak, say it after you have applied the Sufi Gateways Test.
Everybody on the planet is a sinner. Everyone’s made mistakes and is making newer ones all the time. There really are no saints. Gossiping is a tendency to compare one’s own follies with those of others and say that I am less defective, a lesser sinner. It’s a free ego massage at the expense of someone who is naïve or meek or, hopefully, too thick-skinned. A person, who is at the butt of all the loose talk, but who’s seen Life and understands its true nature will choose silence and will never hit back with the same weapon__which is gossip__because she or he understands the futility in such a rejoinder. If the person, on the other hand, is sensitive or aggressive or both, she or he will fight back. She or he will grieve, but will not go down without a fight. Either way, using words aimlessly, gossiping, opining, passing judgment, is sure to mark the end of what could have been beautiful relationships.
The next time you are beginning to say something, that doesn’t concern you directly, remember what someone has so wisely said, “Words can make a deeper scar than silence can heal.”