True, Kind, Useful

True, Kind, Useful November 19, 2010

I believe Richard Bartholomew’s post on the conviction and sentencing for extreme acts of cyber-bullying is worth noting.

Two reasons. And then how this sparks a further thought.

One, I think more people should be aware of Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, an important blog exploring the seamier side of contemporary religion.

Two, it holds up an example of a particularly vicious campaign against people waged by someone who defended his various crimes as “satirical hoaxes.” The ability of people to define what they do no matter how vile as justifiable, boggles the mind. At least the criminality of this particular case has been established. I assume there will be continuing pushing of boundaries and pushback and, gradually, some body of law will emerge. Personally I hope for broad boundaries, allowing outrage its voice, but drawing lines at clearly defined libel, identity theft and malicious actions.

But the real deal for me is not so much where the lines of criminal behavior begin, but rather how we engage ourselves in ordinary discourse. After all that’s where most of us live.

I am aware that every generation appears to feel the succeeding one is coarser. I notice the literature of how it was done better in the past is the meat and potatoes of conservative commentary.

My generation was certainly more foulmouthed than its predecessor, at last the majority of people began to use Anglo Saxon words, which have become vulgar in our culture, in a much larger part of what might be considered polite society.

However it’s not language I’m so concerned with.

Rather it is the casual way in which we seem to assume everyone is fair game. And if we’re speaking the truth* that what we say is cruel is totally okay.

I question that.

I certainly have my own lapses. But, when they’re pointed out, I at least try to consider what is suggested. When I deleted a blog post based upon such a comment a year or two ago my stated reason was that sometimes being right isn’t enough.

In discourse, particularly here on the web, I generally try to apply the following filter:

a) is it true?*
b) is it kind?
c) is it useful?

Gotta have “a,” knowing it is a slippery demon. And ideally both “b” and “c,” but at least one of them.

I don’t know where this comes from originally. As I searched around I saw some attribute a version of this to Socrates. Several writers suggested it a traditional Buddhist teaching, although my quick glance suggested people were quoting each other about this.

I think it simple folk wisdom.

And I feel things would be a bit better around the web if more of us tried to follow this rule of thumb.

And maybe even extend it into our regular conversations in the flesh…

Two cents while trying to avoid my sermon…

* Ah, truth. What can I say? Well, actually, I did. A slippery demon…

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