A piece of simple old wisdom that’s desperately needed in the modern world
“You’re not going to believe it! You’re not going to believe it!” shouted the young man as he ran across the courtyard. “I just heard something about one of your friends!”
“Whoa, slow down,” replied Socrates lifting his eyes from the scroll he was reading to face the young man. “Before you tell me the news, I’d like to give you a little test.”
“A test?” the young man fired back frustrated his eagerness had been met with resistance. “What kind of test? I don’t like tests!”
“Don’t worry,” Socrates smiled. “It’s not very hard. In fact, it’s quite simple. It’s called the ‘Triple-Filter Test’. And as its name implies, it consists of three questions that will hopefully help you better filter information.”
“The first filter is Truth,” Socrates continued. “Are you absolutely positive that what you’re going to tell me is true?”
“No, I’m not sure it’s true,” the young man responded sheepishly. “I just heard about it and I thought you should….”
“Moving on,” Socrates jumped in. “Since you’re not sure whether or not what you want to tell me about my friend is true or not it’s time for the second filter which is goodness —Is the news you have about my friend something good?”
“No, it’s not good,” replied the young man. “It’s the opposite of good and that’s why….”
“Hmmm,” Socrates stopped the young man once again. “You want to tell me something bad about my friend that may or may not be true? Do I have that right?”
“I’m not doing very well at this test am I?” replied the now tomato-faced young man.
“That’s yet to be seen,” said Socrates. “There’s still one question left that can allow you to pass the test and it involves usefulness — Is the news you want to tell me about my friend useful?”
“No,” the young man replied completely deflated. “I’m afraid it’s not useful.”
“So what you want to tell me about my friend is neither good nor is it useful. And you aren’t even sure if it’s true or not. Let me ask you one final question — Why would I even want to hear it?”
I was talking to a friend about the obscene amount of information we have thrown at us on a daily basis. “So-and-so did this!” “So-and-so said that!” Online. Offline. We’re being hit from all angles.
Developing the know-how to filter the untrue, not good, and downright useless information may very well be the ultimate skill for navigating the future. But my friend brought up a tremendous point that we all have the ability to make the world a little quieter, calmer, and kinder and it starts with better thinking before we speak today.
Outing others or passing along negative news without doing the hard work of gathering facts or considering their circumstances is easy.
So don’t do the easy thing.
This may sound overly basic and like most things I write, it’s something I’m trying to get better at. But if I’ve learned anything in my 43 trips around the sun it’s that the best advice usually is simple and the best way to make a positive change is by first recognizing it’s a problem that needs fixing.
Think about how you feel when your name is dragged through the mud or someone talks behind your back. Better yet, sit down and write about the last time it happened, and don’t skimp when it comes to the details and how many days it took to recover. You can even think about how much you would have appreciated someone calling you to actually talk about what happened so you had a chance to explain yourself without feeling threatened.
Some people are bullet-proof and have a slope on their shoulders where the words of others run quickly off their back. But most people aren’t built like drainpipes. And even though people love to say our actions speak louder words, what we say still holds tremendous power.
The bottom line is if someone followed you for 500 miles, I’d bet my house they’d find a reason to pull you over. But that doesn’t mean your infraction deserves a fine. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean it’s worthy of being turned into front-page news.
I do stupid things. You do stupid things. We all do stupid things. It’s one of the few things that ties all human beings together. But despite the news, most people don’t wake up thinking about how they can make the world a worse place.
The first step in building bridges will always be doing what you can to stop the divide.
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