Three Sieves

Once, a disciple of Socrates came to find him in a hurry. He gasped for breath and then said excitedly: “I want to tell you something; you will never guess what it is.”

Surprisingly, Socrates stopped him before he could reveal the information and asked: “Did you filter it through three sieves?”

Sensing that his teacher was displeased, his student shook his head. He was puzzled by the question.

Socrates continued: “When you want to tell someone something, you should filter it through at least three sieves! The first sieve is called truth. Is what you want to tell me true?”

“I heard it from people off the street or from my friends. Everyone was talking about it. I don’t know if it’s true.”

“Then you should use your second sieve to check. If it is not true, it should at least be kind. Is what you are going to tell me kind?”

“No, just the opposite.” His student bowed his head in shame.

Socrates went on tirelessly: “Then let’s use the third sieve. Is what you are so eager to tell me important?”

“It’s not very important,” said his disciple.

Socrates continued: “Since this news is not important, is slanderous, and you don’t know whether it’s true, why would you relay it? It will only cause trouble for the two of us.

“So, don’t listen to gossip. People who spread such information around don’t do so in good faith; they just want to say things about other people, whether they are accurate or not. They will not hesitate to spread rumors about anyone, including you.”

Whether this story is true or not, it does bring up an interesting point, especially now that there is so much fake news on the Internet. We should certainly use the three sieves of “truth,” “goodwill,” and “importance” before speaking.














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