Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Right Speech


An Unmasked Man in a Grocery Store

Right Speech & Least Harm

Apr 28, 2021

Saying For Today: Of course, bully talk hides a profound sense of inferiority, and hate speech betrays the fear of others one cannot hide.

Right speech, wise speech, attractive speech, hate speech, bully talk, non-harming, path of least harm, respect, kindness, cursing, blessing, Carrie Newcomer, George Fox, that of the Sacred in everyone.

Post a sentry, Sacred One, before my mouth;
keep guard over the door of my lips.

*Psalm 141.3

Whatever you do, do in the wisdom of God, and with it, what is pure from above, gentle, and easy to be entreated. With this wisdom, which is not worldly, sensual, or cruel, you do good to everyone and hurt no one, including yourselves: for this is pure and preserves purity.

George Fox, Letter to Friends (Quakers), 1659.

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Two matters of import before reading on. First, speech is energy. Ancients understood this. We moderns have forgotten it. Any word you speak or write or sing has a quality of energy and is either blessing or curse. Also, differing words, especially for linked with givers of them, have different degrees of positive or negative energy. We are custodians of life energy, so we are to choose our words wisely. Second, speech in this writing refers to any form of communication through words or symbols.

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I meet him in the aisle of the little grocery store. I pass him by, turning from him, not to deride him. I am being careful in public, turning from anyone who does not wear a mask. I feel no need to judge him for not wearing a mask. I continued my shopping.

A sign on the door informs those who enter of a state mandate to wear a mask. It notes persons are to comply by wearing a mask in the store. This area is a conservative sector of the state, yet most persons have seemed glad to abide by the mask-wearing decree, unlike in many conservative regions of the States.

After shopping, I approach the check-out lane. This store is a small rural one, so I am the only customer checking out - as is often so the case. Before I lay down my groceries on the rotating belt, the non-masker comes behind me. I move aside, look at him, and point for him to go before me, as he has much fewer goods. He askes, am I sure. I reply yes.

This man finishes checking out, and he proceeds to leave. Before he reaches the door, he calls back, expressing gratitude. I wish him well.

While I check out now, I feel a joy within my body. I feel positive, even love, about the sharing with this man.

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While musing on the encounter with the man, two ideas kept coming to mind - first, right speech, next, the path of least harm. I learned of these ideas from Buddhism. These ideas are interlocking.

Right speech is wisdom teaching. It is ethical teaching. Like other faith paths, Buddhists recognize edifying social behavior is essential to living a compassionate, awakened life. Right speech includes how and what we speak. I cannot expect to live a spirit-centered life, if I go to worship, for example, but outside that time, I talk in ways that bring needless harm to others.

So, right speech, as I said, links with the path of least harm. At times, we cannot avoid bringing harm to someone. Above, I wrote "needless harm" for that reason. So, when what we say will cause injury to the other's feelings, we aim to speak wisely to limit as much as possible the harm.

I could have been harsh with the unmasked man. What would that have accomplished? I could have challenged him in public, thinking I was justified, for he was not complying, and I was. That would have brought unnecessary harm to him, and it could have resulted in an altercation in which he and I harmed each other.

When the unmasked man was exiting the store, I sensed he was reprimanded by the kindness shown him. This sense arose from the tone of his voice. Regardless, right speech, whereby he received blessing rather than a scolding, was the path of least harm.

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Sadly, where I live, the United States, hate speech seems more the norm than any time in my 60 years. This appraisal is so partly for media focuses on the insanity about us. Yet, despite all the blessers and blessing, harmers and harming is all about us. Many persons have no conscience about publicly attacking others' character. And social media has brought this more into the open. Politicians often appear more interested in this public character assassination than policy making. The last president relished belittling others as a form of personal entertainment, and many claiming to be Christian seemed to have no qualms with this behavior, even, it seems, gladly celebrated his undignified rantings. His behavior gave permission for others to do the same. Of course, bully talk hides a profound sense of inferiority, and hate speech betrays the fear of others one cannot hide.

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Yet, this is true - what comes out of your mouth, and how - this includes what you write or type - tells the world the condition of your spirit. In inner ugliness, one spreads curses. With inner loveliness, one gives out blessings.

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That the man in the grocery store consciously benefited from kindness shown him is not most important. Most significant, through speech, he received the respect every person deserves, for that of Spirit is within him, as in all.

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Let your talk be gracious and attractive, so that you will have a wise response for everyone.

*Collosians 4.6

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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021

*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Right Speech

©Brian Wilcox 2021