A famous story narrates that once an acquaintance came to Socrates and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?” “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
Socrates continued, “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you are going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “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 filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”the man replied.
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you are not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend 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?”
There are sadly no Socrates’ amidst us. However, the ilks of his friend are galore. In our society, it has been a routine to speak spitefully or slanderously about people behind their backs when they are not around to defend themselves. It is similar to gossip but is more malevolent and obnoxious. Commonly known as back-biting or tale-bearing, people incredibly possess an inexorable tendency to vilify others.
Words reflect thoughts and mentality. Be it social, official or a small bash, the incessant tale-bearing at most of the gatherings reflects the insensitivity of people towards the most disliked and disowned practice by all the religions.
We usually forget the old phrase that advises- ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ A snooping and equally scandalous habit of trash-talk about others is the hallmark of all and sundry who feel insecure about themselves while taking vicarious pleasure out of it. And doing so, they try to project themselves as good and better beings.
“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat flesh of his dead brother?”(Holy Quran 49:12). This verse depicts how much repulsive backbiting is considered.
Emphasizing the significance of tongue, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear Allah as regards us; for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked”(Tirmizi, Hadith 2407). Hazrat Ali (RA) said: “The tongue is such a ferocious beast that if let loose, it will act ravenously.”
Back-biting is a loathsome and despicable act that meddles with the social matters since they are by and large associated to tongue. This small piece of flesh is of huge consequence in social life. Calumny and spitefulness by this organ brings disastrous upheaval to social structure. Distrust and distances afflict the ties, generating misgivings and alienation.
Bottomline: Those who indulge in disparagement and denigration, with a malicious intent to distort realities, do not carry too long. Their seeming success lasts little. For truth never remains de-shaped forever. It gets back to brasstacks.
The mills of God grind slowly. Back-biters are destined to face the wrath. Eventually. But the damage they wreak is too severe. At times, irreparable!