- Is it necessary?
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it appropriate for the time?
I have heard various versions of these questions, some attributed to Buddha, some to a Sufi, others to more modern thinkers.
You can search Three Gates or Four Gates of speech – the idea is to let our thoughts pass through four “gates” before they come out of our mouth, so that what we say does no harm. So it “improves upon the silence.”
There is a THINK before you speak acronym. True. Helpful. Inspiring. Necessary. Kind. They sell posters for classrooms with this sentiment. An excellent concept to introduce to children.
Another perspective: Know the rules, and know when to break them. Sometimes, it is more beneficial to tell a white lie to maintain peace and harmony. Sometimes, it is not “necessary” to sing a song or quote a poem, but it adds to the beauty of the moment. Sometimes, although you have a loving heart, the thing you are saying may not be perceived as kind, but it is perhaps necessary.
Either way, space between thoughts and words is required. Meditation has certainly helped me with that subtle instinct to examine my thoughts before I say them out loud. Far from perfect I am, but the pursuit is at least a start.
I like the four I listed above best, because I cannot think of an instance when the fourth gate, “Is it appropriate for the time?” should be broken. Can you?