Right Speech

right speech

Waking up in the middle of the night or more accurately being woken in the middle of the night because of heartburn, I pulled my journal and fountain pen and began writing. Thoughts flowed like a river overflowing with the water from a mountain snowmelt. One thought led to another and another and another. Words began to fill the page. My mind emptying of the useless thoughts which often collect and every now and then need to be purged.

I struck on a recent thought after traveling to Nashville for work. I had run into two of my nephews and their wives, one of whom works at the same parent company. I found myself wanting to discuss, for no good reason the resignation of a problem employee. Staci looked at me and said, “I’m on vacation. I don’t want to talk about work.” As much as I didn’t want to hear that comment, I needed to come to an understanding of why at that time it became “important” for me to bring up this topic. I knew she was right. I have heard myself making the same statement knowing it’s in the past and there is nothing which can be done about it. What was I doing, better yet why was I doing this? Why was I discussing this when not one of them was aware of this person. What was I trying to do, to accomplish? I walked away feeling pretty stupid, embarrassed. I felt like the little kid in the sandbox who had a toy removed and this was the way I was going to show my displeasure.


I went and sat down to read. I had the remainder of the day awaiting the return of a professional peer to complete the conference they were attending. I tried to read but the thoughts of why I needed to bring this topic up continued to haunt me. I struggled to focus on what I was reading because the feeling of being embarrassed was looming large. There was a lesson which I needed to learn. That lesson was one of the Noble Eight-fold Path, specifically “Right Speech.” The definition of Right Speech is “And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”

My father taught me about this concept by saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth closed.” Additionally, I had learned, If you propose to speak, ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?” A canonical quote from the Buddha’s texts is more accurately represented in the following: “Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless and upfaulted by knowledgeable people. It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. A statement endowed with these five factors is often a statement of which I can be proud.”

The concept of Right Speech is a relatively easy one to learn. Unfortunately, I, like many others trying to for one reason or another this is a difficult one with which to adhere.

Speak only words that do no harm

“One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken.

“One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant.”

What was I trying to accomplish through this statement? The person about who I was speaking was not known to anyone else. Why was I allowing this person about whom I was speaking to occupy the amount of space in my head that I was 1500 miles from home and speaking of this? It had absolutely no relevance to anything. It served no positive agenda. It was, in fact, causing me to not be able to focus on what I was reading.

As I thought and journaled, I allowed myself the opportunity to unburden myself from the weight of this comment thus freeing my mind and allowing myself the opportunity to unburden myself and move forward.



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