Thinking on Right Speech

I’ve been thinking the last couple days about the things I say, and why I say them. It used to be that I always just said everything that crossed my mind because I thought, in doing so, I was more honest than most people. This led to my being quite rude to some people, and often that rudeness of thought was directed in speech towards people who did nothing to wrong me, and always that rudeness was the result of some sort of wrong mental picture I had created and embraced about the situation at hand.

With clearer mindfulness, I can see things a little differently now… but often my mind (stuck in old habits) declares so and so to be true, and I hear the thought “such and such is bad.” While I usually can look at the thought as say to myself “no, that is not so,” and shut the thought down… the problem I have seen lately is that I still have the conditioned response to say whatever is on my mind before thinking about it. So the process goes a little like this:

  1. The mind conjures up something that is clearly wrong view.
    Thinking: Man, that guy is a real jerk!
  2. Speech emits from my mouth that is incorrect, divisive, or downright false.
    Speaking: “I’m too smart to do/say that!” 
  3. I realize the error and feel shame for having spoken.
    [mental facepalm]

Of course, this all happens in the matter of a second and a half, and often results in others being upset at the person or thing I’m talking about, or at me.

Generally, this sort of thing seems to come from my desire to be right about things, a sort of self-view that wants praise for being right or “fitting in” with the rest of my friends at work. Ultimately, it is a foolishness that leaves me unhappy and fosters negativity in others and myself.

I only bring it up because I feel like a lot of us do the same thing, with or without the mental facepalm afterward. Many people create opinions about others that are based on faulty views, then say things to incite similar feelings in others, but how many realize the real reason they are doing it? Verse 63 of the Dhammapada comes to mind:

A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks himself wise is a fool indeed.

I feel like this is part of the realization I’m coming to as it pertains to my following of the fourth precept and right speech. I suppose if I at least admit that I have a problem, maybe I will find the means to correct it. Further, it could be said that if one refuses to think critically about his own actions, what hope does he have of mastering them?

Just a thought I was having, and I believe it worthy of sharing. I hope you are well and find peace with whatever challenges you find today. I will post again soon, friends.

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3 comments

  1. Recently did the Vipassana meditation, where we spent 10 days in Noble Silence on the grounds that most people can’t be trusted to only speak the truth for 10 days! It was an amazing experience, and once we could speak again I became so much more aware of the untruths and exaggerations that spill out of my mouth. My advice though, is not to be too hard on yourself. It’s great that you have this awareness, and now that you have it, things will slowly change. Good for you! Be happy!

    1. Thank you for the words of encouragement. Fortunately, being happy is most often not a problem — and when it is, the unhappiness is short-lived when I think about much more well (mentally and physically) I am now than I once was. Be well, too, friend.

  2. I really like this post. It’s so true that so many of us speak without thinking first.

    I like Gil Fronsdal’s advice that we should always pause before speaking. To quickly scan over the body, and check for areas of tension (which can lead to harsh speech) and to consider what we are saying, and why we are saying it. As he said – nobody is going to pick up on a brief pause before you answer.

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