At this moment in history I struggle over whether to speak up or stay silent. There is pain to be found in the exercise of Right Speech. There are atrocities going on, egregious violations of human rights. Its seem immoral to not state that I am against those things. Anyone with a functional conscience should be. The thing is, I’m not naming those issues because I’d like this post to be “evergreen” and not become dated by specific references. The tragedy of it all is that on any given day there is something awful going on that I could be referring to, now, a year into the future, or a decade after this was written. The humanity’s moral compass has become so broken that I have to state for the record that I’m against objectively horrible things is heartbreaking. This contributes rather significantly to my need for self-care.
There is solace to be found in the echo chambers, however. We need to know that we’re not the only person who sees what’s going on, that has profound objections, and experiences sorrow and depression over the suffering we bear witness to. At the same time we also know that expression of our objections, pointing out that the emperor has no compassion, that because a thing is legal does not make it moral or ethical, will be met with acts of verbal, emotional, and possibly even physical, violence. There are, rightfully so, consequences to speech. While we may wish that those consequences only extended to those who tell lies and use propaganda to inflict abuse, we all know that it can also come back to bite those who only speak the truth.
This is why meditating on Right Speech, and putting it into practice, is important. We need to speak up, but at the right time, to the right people. We cannot allow stating the fact, providing the evidence of objective reality, and speaking the plain truth be twisted around and wielded as a weapon against us. It’s insidious and evil, and we need to choose our words carefully.
What is Right Speech?
Right Speech, ideally, means only speaking that which leads to liberation and enlightenment. At the most fundamental level is means tell the truth, be kind and polite with your words, and refrain from gossip. If the things you say have the potential to hurt someone, or to come back and hurt you, just keep quiet. If you have the opportunity to say things that will help people, either by providing them with useful information or just offering them love and encouragement, speak up.
The Noble Eightfold Path is often divided into three separate disciplines. Right View and Right Resolve together are considered to be the Discipline of Wisdom. Right Speech is the first component of the Discipline of Moral Virtue, which also includes Right Action and Right Livelihood. This is significant, because no matter what else we do, our true moral selves begin with what we say.
The Role of Right Speech in Self-Care
The obvious connection between our self-care routines and Right Speech is to be honest about our needs. We need to tell ourselves the truth about what our problems are, and the difficult decisions and unpleasant tasks we will need to undertake to address those problems. There is also a need to be honest with our caregivers, those who help us. Self-care, in spite of the name, is never something that we undertake completely alone. Even if we’re merely consulting with others on what we can do on our own, they need to know the truth. That way they’re helping us to solve the correct problem.
Beyond that, we need to understand the potential damage that is done to us by the false speech of others. For my part I’ve tried to insulate myself from lies, propaganda, and pointless conversations. They only serve to provide agents of suffering with a platform. It hurts to feel powerless against the force of those lies, and the pain they’re causing, rather than continually calling them out. I still struggle to get past that. Part of my self-care routine is meditating on what I might do. I forgive myself for not understanding how to do more. Remember that sometime doing nothing is better than engaging in speech that could make things worse. Don’t feed the trolls.
Speaking up, at the proper time and place, to the people who need to hear it, is a form of self-care. Any time we align ourselves with kindness we are healing ourselves. Bring objective reality into tighter focus, and make our minds, bodies, and spirits stronger. The more we distance ourselves from lies, gossip, and cruel words, the closer we get to the light.
Do You Have Insights on Right Speech and Self-Care?
We need to be honest about what our problems are. What areas of our lives are in need of better self-care? If you already have a routine, are the things you’re doing getting you results? What can you do differently that will address your unmet needs, and allow you to alleviate your own suffering? Be sure that the steps you take aren’t going to end up causing you a different sort of suffering. Avoid accidentally creating suffering for others. Employing Right Speech, you can improve your own self-care efforts.
I want to know your thoughts and opinions on this. Please leave your comments below. Maybe we can start a discussion!