There's a great story going around social media, and I've got to pass it on. It's the story of the Triple Filter Test. There are actually a couple of different versions going around. One says the test was given by the ancient philosopher, Socrates, who lived form about 469 to 339 BCE. The other story speaks of an Islamic scholar who lived in Baghdad during the Abbasid period, which is from about 750 to 1258 CE.
To tell the truth, this is such a good story that it doesn't really matter who might have thought it up first. Here's the story, and since Socrates was a scholar, I'm going to just call the main character "the scholar."
*** *** *** *** ***One day a scholar was visited by an acquaintance who asked him, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"
"Wait," said the scholar. "Before you tell me anything, I'd like you to run your story through a little test that I call the Triple Filter Test."
"Triple Filter?" asked the acquaintance.
"That's right," said the scholar. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea for you to take a moment to filter whatever you're going to say. That's why I call it the Triple Filter Test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you're about to tell me is true?"
"Uh, well, no," said the man. "Actually, I just heard about it..."
"All right," said the scholar. "So you don't really know of this is true or not. Now let's try the second filter, Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"
"No, on the contrary," answered the acquaintance.
"So you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you're not certain if it's true. Well there's one more filter: Usefulness. Is this information about my friend going to be useful to me?"
"No, not really," admitted the acquaintance.
"If what you wanted to tell me is neither true, good, nor useful, why do you want to tell it to me at all? "
*** *** *** *** ***
I assume the acquaintance didn't tell the scholar whatever he had intended to relate. This advice is similar to that given by the spiritual leader of my religion, Eckankar. Sri Harold Klemp advises us to pass a kind of "triple filter test," although he didn't call it that. He said that we should ask ourselves, "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" As far as I'm concerned, these questions are the same as the ones in the story above. If what you have to say isn't positive, it's probably not very kind, either. And if it's not useful, then it's not necessary.
If we all filtered our speech in this way, whichever questions we ask ourselves, we could avoid a great deal of negativity. :-)
(Image credit: photo of dichroic filters from Wikipedia.)