Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > on right speech


Kind Speech Right Speech ~ edifying by words & no words

Feb 23, 2020

Sun & Steeple

*Brian Wilcox. 'Sun & Steeple'

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A reason we spend time in silence daily is to return home, to what the Buddha calls the island of the self. Returning home, we return to basic goodness. Then, through the means of body, mind, and speech, we are more prepared to be with others, to edify them through the skillful use of our bodies, our minds, and our voices. We see this precious human body as a vehicle to reach out and touch positively others, to invite them to the island of self, their selves.

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Then, Jesus summoned the crowd to come to him and said to them, “Listen and learn: it is not what goes into the mouth that pollutes a person, it is what comes out of the mouth that pollutes a person.”
*Gospel of Matthew 15.11-12

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A young, Christian pastor of a nearby little, rural church, came to visit the Sage, as he often did. Usually, the two enjoyed gladsome chatting and drinking tea or coffee together. Immediately, this day, the Sage could sense concern on the visitor's face, and the latter declined the usual sharing of coffee or tea. Always the young man was cheery, especially so since being invited to serve as pastor for the little congregation, his first. Not today.

Said the Sage, "And what burdens your heart?"

"Well, you know I have that little congregation, and I much enjoy leading them in worship each Sunday." He, then, became silent, looking toward the ground.

"Is their a problem?" asked the Sage.

"I don't know. Before the worship meeting, everyone seems glad to see each other and me, and we share happily before worship begins." He continued, "But after the meeting, as everyone is leaving, shaking my hand on the way out, the people seem unhappy. Some say things like, 'Pastor, I enjoyed the message today,' or 'It's been good, again, being in worship with you,' but their faces belie their words, even the tone of their voices belies what they tell me. Some, on going out, shake my hand but do not look at me, avoiding eye contact."

"It seems clear," spoke the Sage, "something is happening between the beginning and the end of the meeting to change the hearts of your people."

At the request of the young pastor, the Sage visited, reluctantly ~ for he did not favor attending a religious gathering, in fact, any social gathering ~ a worship meeting at the little, red-brick church. The Sage was kindly welcomed, and joyfully, by the people. He noticed how gladsome the people were, their radiant faces when singing songs, their reverent looks when saying prayers. After the young man offered his message, the meeting ended with a song and a closing benediction.

Meeting the Sage again, some days later, the young man inquired, "Did you see the change I see?"

"Oh, yes," retorted the Sage. "I saw it, I felt it too."

"If you can help me understand this, please do so, it saddens me much, this unhappiness of the people and that I might be a cause for it," said the young man, truly wanting his people to leave uplifted and inspired by sharing in worship.

Replied the Sage, looking intently and compassionately at his troubled friend, "It took me many years to learn one lesson in relating with people, a lesson, when learned, can help us to lead others through the gates of joy."

"What's that?" questioned the young man.

"If you want your beloved people to look sweet and act pleasant, give them words that are sweet and pleasant, don't keep giving them lemons to chew on."

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The Proverbs, a book of wisdom in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, reminds us of the power of kind words: "A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up" (Proverbs 15.1, CEV). And "... gracious words are pure" (Proverbs 15.26, ESV). And, "You can persuade others if you are wise and speak sensibly. Kind words are like honey ~ they cheer you up and make you feel strong. ..." (Proverbs 16.23-25, CEV).

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Buddhists teach Right Speech. Right Speech is one among the virtues of the Noble Eightfold Path, the way to liberation from suffering. Right Speech is skillful means. So, Right Speech is not only what one says, but how one says it. We need not only speak what is truthful, but what is timely, and speak with a tone befitting the matter at hand and to edify others.

See, Right Speech is speaking so as not to harm another. Even if what we say causes another pain, that does not mean it is harmful; we may say something that hurts another and it be timely and skillful, intending to lead to edification.

We want to edify others through what we say and how we say it. Rude speech is never justifiable. And Right Speech includes writing, including texting and emails. What we say and how we say it over the internet tells everyone how we are, we are telling everyone, "This is I."

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I was raised in a religious sect that considered critical preaching, harsh of voice and face and speech, sound preaching. Starting in preaching at age 15, I became like so many of the other preachers, wielding the Scripture to beat the people or to judge those who would never enter a church. Generally, persons esteemed me as an excellent preacher. After those deliveries of lemons I gave the congregations to chew on, persons would leave saying things like, "Preacher, that was really a good sermon this morning, you really stepped on our toes." I had stepped on their toes, and they liked that, and I liked doing it.

I learned some matters of import over the years, however, before I stopped such harshness, and started speaking to edify, to lift up, the people. First, judgemental speaking projects the self-righteousness of the speaker onto others. Also, one might give a temporary spanking through words, but it does not lead to deep spirituality among persons. And persons who like getting beaten up with words, along with those who beat them up, both have not rightly learned to love themselves well. Utilizing speech to abuse persons, even if they say they like it, that is impractical, and it harms both the receiver and the giver.

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Lastly, the wisdom of the Way teaches us that often not speaking is the most edifying speech. We can, at times, be with persons more fully and wisely through simply being-with them, such as in the following story.

A man visited Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian saint who taught of what he termed the eloquence of silence. Ramana's assistant stood with the man, while the visitor spoke to Ramana. Ramana did not reply with a single word. This confused the visitor. On leaving, he expressed this confusion to the assistant; he did not understand what Ramana was doing, he said. The assistant said, "He was praying for you."

Video below can be accessed on original site via upper left artist-title below...

(C) Brian Wilcox, 2020


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > on right speech

©Brian Wilcox 2020