Gossip Free Zone
I feel really passionately about the Buddhist concept of “wise speech”. So today’s post is a follow up from yesterdays’ on listening rather than talking.
When we talk about another person, a lot of care should be taken regarding what is said.
Even if the intention of the talk is not harmful – as in harsh speech, or gossip – it is still possible to cause harm. We cannot know the effect that our speech may have.
I am reminded of this story:
In a small German village, a woman differed with her minister and became so angry that she began spreading ugly rumors about him around town. As fate would have it, she eventually became ill and called on the minister to pray for her. He came gladly, and she asked his forgiveness of her gossiping.
“I will grant you forgiveness,” the minister said, “but there’s something you must do.”
“I’ll do anything,” the woman said.
“As soon as you get well, go pluck the feathers from a black chicken and put them into a basket and bring them to me.”
When the woman got well, she did what the minister asked her to do and presented the basket of feathers to the minister.
“You did well,” the minister said. “Now take this basket of feathers and scatter them in the corners of the marketplace and from the towers of the church. Scatter them throughout the town. Then return to me.”
So the woman did. She walked from one end of town to the other, scattering the feathers. Then she returned to her pastor. “I have done as you asked,” she said.
“Very well. Now take your basket and collect all the feathers. Make sure not one is missing.”
“But that is not possible!” the woman said with a choking cry. “The wind has carried many of them away!”
“So it is with your words,” the minister said. “While I have gladly forgiven you, do not forget that you can never undo the damage your untrue words have done.”
Personally I try to uphold a practice of not talking about someone if they are not present.
It’s an interesting practice… and surprisingly difficult to do.
It’s a great opportunity for analysis though – why do we want to talk about that person? For what purpose? What is our intention?
With our speech we can cause great change
Words can hurt and words can heal.
The basic Buddhist guidelines for wise speech include: no slander, no harsh speech, no gossip, and no idle speech. In addition to the fundamental precept of not lying.
Speech is such a fascinating area to be mindful of, and practice mindfulness in. I will explore the topic more in future blog posts.
But for today, try this practice:
Do not speak about anyone who is not present
And be mindful of the challenges that this exercise creates for you.
Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Miguel Angel Ruiz