I don’t love politics. I think it’s because I like to believe the best about people, and a lot of politicians, democrat and republican, have consistently shown their worst. We are inundated with attack ads, largely full of generalizations and half-truths. What these ads really do is make me disappointed in the person who “approved” them. After all, what you say about someone else tells me more about your character than theirs! Regardless of party affiliation, what we get most from politicians these days is a lot of talk, most of it without much substance.
In contrast, many other cultures value silence: the silence of meditation or prayer, or even vows of silence kept for years. One of the reasons for silence is so a spiritual seeker can listen. How can we hear the answers we seek if we are constantly talking? And clearly a lot of talk is senseless or even damaging. Think of gossip, or some of the speeches the political candidates are making on the campaign trail!
Maybe society doesn’t have to go so far as taking a vow of silence, but perhaps we could use a reminder of how to use speech to communicate and connect rather than deride and divide. I was recently reminded of an elegant set of guidelines for speaking. They are adapted from several spiritual traditions, and I can’t cite an exact origin. I’m grateful to a friend for posting them as a timely reminder for us all.
Before speaking, T.H.I.N.K:
T – is it true?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?
If we were to follow these rules, imagine the changes that could happen. We wouldn’t have to doubt what anyone said. There would be no fear of having our feelings hurt by a careless comment. The politicians would inspire us in dark times instead of increasing fear and division. Idle chit-chat that doesn’t increase our connection to another person would cease. Kindness would be the rule rather than the exception. Imagine the sense of calm, and all the quiet moments.
Of course, this is a utopian dream. I can’t make the men and women running for office think before they speak, but I can choose not to listen to gossip and defamation. Words that are untrue, unhelpful, uninspiring, unnecessary and unkind won’t get my attention. And while I can’t control any other person’s voice, I can control my own. Every time I think before I speak, I have the opportunity to influence someone else. And so do you. Maybe it will go viral?