Monday Musings Forty-one: Gatekeepers

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We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ How true or not this proves, comes down to the listener. It might surprise you to hear that it has nothing at all to do with the speaker. Hurtful words can only ever truly harm the person who utters them. Everything else, as with so many of our Monday Musings topics, comes down to choice.

Our emotional and psychological responses come down to our particular conditioning and how free or bound we remain by such conditioning. And it isn’t just the words we say with our tongues that have an impact. You will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head. So, take care to speak kindly to yourself.

Words, in and of themselves, have no substance and prove empty. It is actions that show us who someone is, not their words. Words just prove who someone wants to be. A promise of help gives nothing if not followed up with action. And still, we need to take care of our thoughts and speech.

Whether of the mind or tongue, what we say should have three gatekeepers:

Is it true?Zen Stones for Monday Musings

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

Wise speech can empower. If we have the strength of character to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong,’ then this helps others to do the same. In this context, silence turns out to be more dangerous than words. Recently, I discovered an interesting fact. Apparently, in law, silence implies agreement and condoning. However, within Buddhism (and most spiritual disciplines), the opposite proves true. Silence implies disagreement and disapproval. This makes it essential to understand the situation in which we find ourselves. We have to ensure that our actions and words match with one another and fit the context.

When talking, we should speak in such a way that others love to listen to us. And when listening, we should pay attention in such a way that others love to speak to us. The only way to pay proper attention is to empty our minds as much as possible. A full mind cannot take in any more information and will miss things.

The more silent we become, and the less we speak—whether by mouth or mind—the more our eyes see, and our ears hear.

As with last week’s Monday Musing, The Blame Game, we need to stop and ask ourselves, ‘Is it good to do?’ I might also suggest that another useful question is, ‘Why?’ What motivation lies behind our words?

In the wise words of Zen:


‘Do not speak unless you can improve upon silence.’

If you’ve missed my previous Monday Musings, you can find the links here: :)