Sticks and stones: three gates of responsibility

images“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We all know that this is patently untrue. Words hold intent. Words can comfort and soothe; equally, they can pierce and abuse. Mindless chitchat can fill an empty void. Gossip can become blood sport and lead to vilification and bullying. We can say, “I love you” in many ways with a variety of undertones. And the glorious words of poets and novelists can uplift and inspire us. Words hold energy. Words have power.

Buddha talked about the right use of language. He called it Right Speech — as well as Wise Speech and Virtuous Speech. Right Speech is the third of the Noble Eightfold Path. The idea is to use speech mindfully and as part of an ethical life. And when we make the inevitable mistakes, we can course correct and learn anew.

Years ago, I read a concept about how to use our words responsibly. Are we being compassionate or critical? Considerate or impulsive? The suggestion proffered that we pass through three gates of consideration in determining how responsible we are in the usage of our language:

  1. Are you needed?
  2. Are you sure you are true?
  3. Will you end up doing harm?

Using my language, I would rephrase the questions and considerations as these:

  1. Am I inserting myself where I am not needed, much less invited?
  2. Am I speaking my truth from a compassionate heart and a place of integrity and coherence?
  3. Am I aware of the impact off my words? Am I being hurtful or judgmental?

Our world is a pulsing body of energy and that includes the force and intent with which we use our words. And these days, our world is constantly bombarded with words of strife, divisiveness and vitriol. We forget that we are all one. And what one does energetically impacts each of us. It’s a lot like those butterfly wings in another part of the globe that create changes in the weather. Our words travel and can have many an unknown impact.

If we become more mindful of what we say and how we say it, we plug into our potential to be agents of change, healing and peace. How swell is that?

Let’s use our powers for good.


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6 Responses to Sticks and stones: three gates of responsibility

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell March 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    Great perspective. Thanks, Kathy, for your comment. Can you see me smiling?

  2. Kathy March 16, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    I need to share a reaction to Meredith’s comment. Isn’t it wise for your friend to separate his own feeling about words and not let someone who doesn’t get that get to him – invalidate his feeling about words? We can’t control what others say but can control our reactions even though I think it’s ok to tell the person you didn’t appreciate the comment. I’m a word person and can go totally koo koo with those who don’t but feel peace inside knowing it’s important to me snd they are NUTS! ?

  3. Adele Ryan McDowell March 8, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    Thank you, dear Meredith. Good for your friend for going back to the unconscious person and speaking his truth. Words in all their permutations and tones do matter. Of course, you know this as a master wordsmith :)))). xx

  4. Adele Ryan McDowell March 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    Thanks, Chris. I agree: the vitriol is flying and it impacts the world.

  5. chris hubbard March 8, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    This is particularly relevant given the state of the GOP debates. Thanks for the wisdom Adele.

  6. meredith March 5, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Very important! (And everyone who reads and writes knows this. So do advertisers.)

    I have a long-time friend who was working on a grad degree in English. An acquaintance stopped him on campus, asked him what he was up to. My friend said, “I’m getting my grad degree in English.” The guy him who stupid that was, and — basically — who cares about words!

    NY friend felt terrible. Then he had an epiphany. He found the acquaintance and said this, “I have been feeling like crap for days because of what you said to me. Do NOT try to tell me words don’t matter.”

    Also … I would add, how we say our words.

    Words can be weapons, bridges, harbingers, love. Everything. We must attend to our speech!

    THANK YOU Adele for writing this post and thank you for your words. Always loving and healing.