A parable about what to say and what to leave unsaid


Someone once asked Socrates:

— ’Do you know what your friend has told me about you?’

— ’Wait a second,’ Socrates stopped him. ’you should filter everything you intend to say through three sieves before you say it.’

— ’Three sieves’?

— ’The first is the sieve of truth. Are you sure that what you’re about to tell me is true?’

— ’No, I just heard it.’

— So you don’t know whether it’s true or not. Then let’s move on to the second sieve — the sieve of good. Are you about to tell me something good?’

— ’No. The opposite, in fact.’

— ’So,’ said Socrates, ’you intend to tell me something unpleasant, but you’re not even sure if it’s true or not. Lets try the third sieve — the sieve of usefulness. Is it really necessary for me to hear what you want to tell me?’

— ’No, it’s not necessary.’

— ’Well then’, concluded Socrates, ’what you’re about to tell me is not true, good or necessary. So why bother telling me it at all?’

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