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The best lesson from Ancient Greece to help stop kids (and adults!) from gossiping


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Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/26/22

Socrates' advice maybe over 2,000 years old, but it works just as well today.

Gossip has been around since time immemorial. The only difference today is that there are even more ways to spread the tittle-tattle. And as we know, spreading gossip is not only hurtful and unnecessary, it can do a lot of damage.

This is especially true for young teens, who can fall victims to gossip and bullying, leading to depression and even death by suicide.

So to help nip things in the bud, we can try and encourage our children not to gossip at all. Of course this can come from being good role models and not gossiping ourselves, but it can also come with some practical advice from Socrates, the philosopher who was born nearly 500 years before Christ.

In a conversation that has been widely shared on social media, Socrates established a three-filter system that determines if what news you’re spreading is worthwhile, or not.

Socrates discussion with the individual is said to have gone like this:

-“Before telling anything about the others, it’s good to take the time to filter what you mean. I call it the test of the three sieves. The first sieve is the TRUTH. Have you checked if what you’re going to tell me is true?

No, I just heard it.

Very good! So, you don’t know if it’s true. We continue with the second sieve, that of KINDNESS. What you want to tell me about my friend, is it good?

Oh, no! On the contrary.

So, questioned Socrates, you want to tell me bad things about him and you’re not even sure they’re true? Maybe you can still pass the test of the third sieve, that of UTILITY. Is it useful that I know what you’re going to tell me about this friend?

No, really.

So, concluded Socrates, what you were going to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor useful. Why, then, did you want to tell me this?

While we can’t know if this was the exact conversation, it’s a simple, but very useful guide for kids — and parents — to gauge their words. And as Pope Francis shared:

Gossip is a bad thing. In the beginning it may seem enjoyable and fun, but in the end, it fills our hearts with bitterness and poisons us, too!”

Catholic LifestylePhilosophyPope Francis
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