The tendency to criticize the others has become an usual habit in our everyday life, between all ages, gender and social categories; and it is a source of more suffering and conflicts. Of we don’t speak here about the critical thinking or constructive criticism, but about the vulgar gossiping. Thinking about this, in my mind arises the Socrates well known Test of Three, both for his simplicity and for the reason that it could be of big utility in our everyday life for those who doesn’t know this topic, here’s the story who explains this test:
One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance that ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”
“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”
“Test of Three?”
“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student, let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is
“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”
“No, to the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test, the filter of Usefulness.
Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”
The man was defeated and ashamed, and said no more. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.
Amazing, isn’t it? In a society where the freedom of speech is so exalted, this is a very insightful story to ponder about and translate in practice.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: I have anything about the freedom of speech, but I consider that below all this pretensions of freedom of expression, we forget almost always the ethical field. So, this freedom of speech, this freedom to criticize friends, brothers, mates, enemies, becomes harmful as a poison: a very painful tool.
Those who criticize are less satisfied of themselves, and the degree of criticism depends proportionally to the level of one’s unhappiness. Of course these critics and gossips are designed to do harm to undermine or discredit a person for personal use.
A healthy, intellectually and emotively satisfied person doesn’t have the need to criticize. This attitude hides an internal dissatisfaction who generates resentment towards the others. Of course, the more we perceive that someone has what we lack, the more the criticism is fierce, such as smirching is a sort of revenge for what life didn’t gave to us- or we had been able to achieve.
Sometimes the criticism is a reflection of the opinion we have about ourselves. For example, if we do not like some behavior about us (but we are unable to face it or to perceive it clearly), when we see a similar behavior in others, we react aggressively.
Independently of the reasons why we criticize, this is the reflection of how we and the society in general lack of a true culture, intended as opening our hearts and minds to learn and achieve something new… to learn from the only source we have: our life.