This week in our country we have witnessed an almost miracle; the return to civility. The death of George H.W. Bush, America’s 41st President, made most people stop the negativity and reflect on the life and legacy of this man for a few days this week. We were given many glimpses into the values, behavior, and loves of this one term President. His values of Faith, Family, and Country were obvious in his behavior, and in the words about him by those who knew him best. When asked by one of his granddaughters what was most important to him, he replied, “family.” Not power, not fame, not glory. Family. What a legacy.
I was so struck by the different feeling surrounding most people with whom I interacted these last few days and the feelings expressed just days before by some of the same people. And the difference had nothing to do with politics or political affiliation. I think we were so hungry for positive sentiments that many or maybe even most people paused from the too common vitriol surrounding politics and came together as one.
The different mood in our country made me pause. It also brought to my mind something I have seen and known about for years, that seems to have been forgotten in our present-day society. That “something” is the three and sometimes referred to as four, Gates of Speech. Many of you are probably also familiar with this.
Socrates is one who is credited with the three gates of Speech. There are other philosophers who are also listed as having coined this philosophy, although there is some variation in how the questions are ordered. The gates are ordered in the following manner by Socrates. The first gate is: Is it true? The second gate is: Is it necessary? The third gate is: Is it kind? The philosophy is basically this: Before making a statement, have the statement pass through these three gates. If it does not “pass” all of these gates, then it should probably not be said. There are many times that I would have been spared the pain and troubled relationships if I had passed my words through these gates before saying them. I imagine I have some company in this!
A fourth gate is also mentioned by some, and that gate is: Is it the right time? One writer sees the fourth gate as the one that brings the others together to create a positive impact.
Back to politics for a moment. Many of our statements would fail the three or four gates test. As for “is it true,” most if not all of our statements are our beliefs and have little to nothing to do with truth. While it may be “our truth,” we would be hard pressed to prove it. Then, “is it necessary? “If we realize that our negative talk about “the other side” does nothing but inflame them and does not change their opinion one iota. So, we fail the “necessary” gate. We probably do not even need to discuss “is it kind?” Of course, it isn’t kind. Then, the fourth gate. Is it the right time? Probably not. Enough said.
While politics is a timely subject and one we often discuss, it is by no means the most important conversation topic that we need to pass through the gates test. What about our conversation with our loved ones? And our coworkers or direct reports? These are people who we live with and work with, and they deserve our best efforts.
And parents, what about you? Are you mindful of the fact that your words can build up or tear down your most precious gifts, your children? Perhaps some reading this need to spend less time worrying about Christmas gifts and more time giving your children the gifts of loving words.
I am not sure all of my words in this blog would pass the gates test, especially the “is it kind?” gate. I will go back and review this, and I may make some changes. On the other hand, sometimes the kindest thing to do is to be truthful. I have already professed that I too fail in these areas.
I am reminded of four questions posted on the side of the mountain on the way to Philipsburg from Simpson Bay in St. Maarten. The questions were these same “gates” questions. Every time I read them in the years we visited the island, I was struck by them and spent some time in reflection afterward. The last time we were there this past September, a year after Hurricane Irma devastated the island, the words were gone. I hope they will be there the next time we visit.
And speaking of St. Maarten and Hurricane Irma, my book about that and other life-changing events is now live on Amazon! I will so appreciate you ordering Changing Me from the Inside Out: My Hurricane Irma Experience on St. Maarten and Other Life Changing Events (https://amzn.to/2RJtLou) and reading it! And please, do let me know your thoughts about the book and this blog.
Thank you for my life lessons this week, President George H. W. Bush. May peace surround your family.
And God bless America.