The Three Gates

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself ‘Is it true?’ At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ At the third gate ask, ‘Is it kind?’

This beautiful Sufi saying has been with me for several years now. I wanted to write a few words about it since quite some time ago. First of all, this is one of the best rules for life that I’ve ever encountered in any culture. I’d like to also paraphrase it as such:

Before you take any action, let your thoughts pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself ‘Is it an honest action?’ At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ At the third gate ask, ‘Is it kind?

Applying this throughout my life is, however, much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I believe there’s a certain culture clash occurring here. I live in a culture where I need to stay competitive in order to make ends meet. In the same time, I have creative cravings that are incompatible with what society currently values (being a writer doesn’t pay much).

But then I should at least be able to live by these words at home, right? Or at least in how I treat myself. Well, it’s not that simple actually. Being constantly submerged in a certain culture (and exposed to all the behaviors that culture comes with) makes this very difficult.

I guess it’s time to invest in training my will and patience and my “cultural immune system”, whose duty is to filter out cultural elements that are preventing me from choosing my words and actions more wisely.

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