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Gates of Speech in the 21st Century

Social media has transformed our communities and our communication landscape. Now more than ever, we are connected with so many individuals all over the world. Communicating instantaneously. Sharing our thoughts as soon as they arise. Sometimes our words are kind and supportive, other times, we struggle to find the right words. And, at times, our interactions can be less than nice. How many of you have been on the receiving end of hate or anger filled speech? It has happened to me on occasion.

Is it the fault of social media? Is it our communities that are the problem? Maybe it’s that people misunderstand? Maybe it’s more than that? But, I challenge you to consider this, when you see someone face to face, would you say what you are going to text or post online?

I believe it’s time we look back, to practices when humanity was much different. There is beautiful ancient practice, the Gates of Speech. Before speaking, let your words pass through each of these gates:

Is it true? – now, what is really true? We have so many version of our truth. Don’t rush through this first gate. It is necessary to really step back and see if this comment you are making is really true in the grand picture or if you just feel impassioned to make a statement you believe is true.

Is it necessary? – what is truly necessary in our lives? Look around your office or your house. We have a tough time with this one. Think back to when you were a child and really WANTED that piece of candy. And your parent says “is that really what you need or what you want?” It’s a tough gate and easy to rush through this one as our brain and mouth have little connection. If we work to strengthen this connect, you will see that often silence is your best friend.

Is it kind? – there are times when we believe we are being kind in explaining to someone what a horrible parent they are or maybe what a brat your child is, but is that really kind? It’s not about being a pollyanna and only saying nice things to others, it’s about kindness, compassion, love. When you filter first through the first two gates, being kind will come naturally. Use this as a way to see if you truly understood the first two gates.

Is it the right time? – So, what is a wrong time? Perhaps if it’s not your turn to speak? Maybe if someone is dealing with difficult emotions. You’ll often see the other person not being ready to hear what you have to say. It’s not their time. It forces you to take a step back and look over the situation. Review it in a different light. If you speak and the time isn’t right, the words will not have the impact you desire. So, this gate, is literally, the one that can stop you from making a huge mistake.

Now, let’s imagine a scenario:

Your friend has texted you a hate filled diatribe about your inability to parent effectively. You feel a surge of anger cascade your entire body. You copy and paste the entire text, ready to tweet it to the world (or your followers, which is YOUR world) with #shesucks #sleepsaround.

Let’s use the Gates of Speech:

Is it true? – why yes, the text is true. These were her words. But, let’s look deeper. Are those words true? Is what she described about you as an ineffective parent true? Do you want to spread that message around to others? What about your hashtags? I’d say No, but maybe that heated body is still churning the anger. Let’s take a breath and move to the next gate.

Is it necessary? – why yes, it feels necessary to have the world see what a horrible and unkind person your so-called friend is to you. You need to protect others from her hate-filled rhetoric. But wait… really, is this truly something that you need to do? Or is it just something that will fulfill that lust of anger, revenge? Is that truly necessary? I’d say No, but again, anger is still in the body. So, let’s take another breath and move onto the next gate.

Is it kind? hmmmm… maybe I can remove those hashtags. That’s really not kind. She doesn’t really suck or sleep around (well, one time, but that was totally not her fault). Okay, and the words she wrote about me? Not kind at all. As a matter of fact, they hurt (you might feel anger surge again). Okay, there is no compassion or love in the hashtags or what she wrote … again, I’d say No to this one, but that second surge of anger may have gotten you to pass this gate. So we inhale and exhale and move to the next gate.

Is it the right time? – okay, is this the right time for this tweet. Big question, did you even talk to your friend or text her back with a “why did you send me this text?” Perhaps the time isn’t quite right for sending this tweet. It might never be right, but let’s wait on making that judgement call until after you have a conversation with your friend about this hate filled text.

I hope that little journey gave you some insights into how this amazing and lovely concept can be used in the 21st digital century. This concept is about as old as time, but is more relevant than ever.

So, I would love to see these gates of speech transform the current social media landscape to one that honors us all. The next time you used these gates to help you with a particularly challenging communication, please use the #GatesOfSpeech to share it with the world. We can change the landscape, one hashtag (or gate) at a time.

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