In Kindness Will I Speak

In due season will I speak, not out of season.
In truth will I speak, not in falsehood.
For his [her] benefit will I speak, not his [her] loss.
Gently will I speak, not harshly.
In kindness will I speak, not in anger. -Buddha


Linda: I heard a story from my Buddhist mediation teacher Jack Kornfield. He spoke of one of his students, who early in her studies became passionately enamored with Buddhism. She was learning with great enthusiasm and meditating with devotion. When she went home to visit her parents for the Thanksgiving holiday, she was effervescing about her newly found commitment, telling them all about what she was discovering about this beautiful spiritual practice. Her parents were life-long Christians, and the more she spoke about her new passion, the quieter and more withdrawn they became until they were completely silent.

The young woman was doing her mindfulness practice, paying attention to what was happening. During the next holiday, she went to see her family for Christmas. When they celebrated Jesus’ birth with Christian prayers and all the trimmings, she fully participated similarly to years past and made no mention of Buddhism at all. They all had a wonderful time celebrating together.

When she returned from her second trip, she told her meditation teacher Jack how profoundly different her two vacations with her family had been. She said, “When I went home for Thanksgiving, I spoke of Buddhism. When I went home for Christmas, I was the Buddha.”

I love the story because it speaks to the kindness and deep respect for differences that makes for great relationships. She was able to have her own experience and to delight in her discoveries of what Buddhism had to offer to enrich her life. But her parents were of a quite different orientation, and felt threatened that she might be rejecting them with her new- found preference for a different religion from the one in which they reared her.

Feeling threatened that they might be losing their connection with their beloved daughter made them withdraw and go quiet on the first trip. Their daughter wanted a strong connection with her parents, and she did not want them to experience any suffering or discomfort on her account. Her commitment to their well-being enabled her to keep her experiences with Buddhism private to spare them.

Her choice was in no way dishonest or deceitful, only respectful, kind, and considerate of her family. We are wise to be discerning about what we reveal and what we keep private. To only speak in ways that benefit others is a wonderful guideline, one that will enhance all of our relationships.


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