THE TRIPLE-FILTER TEST

In ancient Greece, Socrates (the famous philosopher) was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs. Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.

The first filter, he explained, is Truth. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”

Socrates cut him off. “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?” Again, the man shook his head. “No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”

Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”  A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”

“Well, then,” Socrates said, turning on his heel. “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”

Source | Jennifer Cook O’Toole, The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules
(Jessica Kingsley Publications, 2012) page 137

CONSIDER THIS

Before you answer a question or voice your opinion, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it good? Is it kind? Is it useful? Is it necessary? If it passes these filters, speak up. If not, either find a tactful way to make it pass or better still, keep it to yourself.

Most people leave it at that and assume that the story is just about the information we spread. What if the real truth behind it, however, is about the information we seek and create. Imagine how different the world would be if we only chose to seek or create information that was true, good, or useful.

Imagine how different the world would be if we only chose to seek or create information that was true, good, or useful.

 

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PICKING UP FEATHERS?

A woman once went for confession, accusing herself badmouthing people. The confessor, a wise old man,  listened lovingly, absolved her and gave her a strange penance. He told her to go home, get a hen and come back, plucking the bird’s feathers as she walked along the street.

When she had returned to him he said: “Now go back home and, as you go, pick up each feather that you plucked on the way.” The woman told him that it would be impossible since the wind had almost certainly blown them away in the meantime.

And the confessor told her “You see, just as it is impossible to pick up the feathers once the wind has scattered them, it is likewise impossible to gather gossip and calumnies back up once they have come out of our mouth.” 

Source | based on Raniero Cantalamessa
preaching on Matthew 18:15-20. | September 05, 2008

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HERE IS A VARIATION OF THE SAME STORY

FEATHERS

A woman whose tongue was sharp and unkind was accused of starting a rumor.
She was brought before the village rabbi protesting,

“What I said was in jest … just humor!
My words were carried forth by others.
I am not to blame.”

But the victim cried for justice, saying,
“You’ve soiled my own good name!”

“I can make amends,” said the woman accused,
“I’ll just take back my words and assume I’m excused.”

The rabbi listened to what she said,
and sadly thought as he shook his head,
“This woman does not comprehend her crime,
She shall do it again and again in time.”

And so he said to the woman accused,
“Your careless words cannot be excused until …
You bring my feather pillow to the market square.
Cut it and let the feathers fly through the air.
When this task is done,
bring me back the feathers …
every one.”

The woman reluctantly agreed.
She thought, “The wise old rabbi’s gone mad indeed!”
But to humor him, she took his pillow to the village square.
She cut it and feathers filled the air.

She tried to catch. She tried to snatch.
She tried to collect each one.
But weary with effort she clearly discovered,
the task could not be done.

She returned with very few feathers in hand.
“I couldn’t get them back, they’ve scattered over the land!
I suppose,” she sighed as she lowered her head,
“Like the words I can’t take back,
from the rumor I spread.”

Source |  Heather Forest, Wisdom Tales from Around the World
(August House,  2005) pages 67-69

 CONSIDER THIS

There are many ways to kill a person – shooting, stabbing, drowning, choking – but the easiest and simplest method is to invent a lie about someone.  Whisper a lie about someone in an ear and see how this grows out of proportion, leading to a downward spiral of violence.

THE TEST OF THREE

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?” “No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?” “No, on the contrary…” So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?” The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass though, because there is a third test—the filter of  Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?” “No, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

Source | Six Wise

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Imagine applying this test to all our conversation, most of what most of us say would not pass and we would lapse into silence. Silence could be Good and Useful.

Those who remain quiet due to lack of confidence should apply the same test of three:

  • Am I conveying a true picture by choosing to be silent?
  • Am I being good by remaining silent?
  • Is my silence useful for me or for others?