I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
The above is quoted from the Fourth Training of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings.
What does it mean to speak truthfully? The very next sentence informs us of what it does not look like. Spreading news which we aren’t sure is correct, is not speaking truthfully. Basically, this is rumor spreading and it causes suffering. Both the rumor spreader and the person whom the rumors are about can suffer. It can shut down trust. People may be happy to listen to the dirt on other people, but it is not a relationship builder. Think about it. If you are struggling with an issue or feelings, are you going to discuss it with a person known for spreading rumors? Probably not, because you know that what you say in confidence may not only be told to others, but possibly misrepresented and told in an unfavorable light. This could be embarrassing at best, and ruin relationships or reputations at worst. By spreading news that you are not sure about, you are telling people they can’t trust you. You are also risking injuring another so that you can get the glory of attention for story sharing. This is not compassionate.
Also, criticizing or condemning things that we are not positive about, is not speaking truthfully. If we don’t understand an issue, any critique we have to offer about it could be wrong. By acting like we know what we are talking about, when we aren’t sure, we have the potential to influence others toward believing that which is false. Before offering up criticisms, we must first be honest with ourselves about whether or not we have a full understanding of the situation or issue.
Embellishing or exaggerating is not speaking truthfully. This can take an event and blow it out of proportion. Sometimes we do this in an effort to bolster our own self because we want other people to think highly of us. Then the joke is on us , because people respect those who tell the truth. They figure out who is up front and who they can trust, and they appreciate honesty. People understand that acting on embellished or exaggerated version of events may result in poor decisions or embarrassment if they are proved wrong. This is why people want to know the truth and why they have respect for those people who are honest with them.
To speak truthfully is to only share that news which we know to be fact. To speak truthfully is to refrain from critique when you aren’t sure that you understand the issue. To speak truthfully is to tell events as they really happen. To speak truthfully is to live in reality. To speak truthfully is to be compassionate.