My ten-year old daughter is facing friendship issues more regularly these days. Kids who have been in school together since kindergarten are forming groups and leaving one other out. They are telling tales and talking about each another behind their backs. Although considered to be “normal” adolescent behaviour, it is not ok. Little girls can be mean if left to their own devices and it is important for us to guide them.
I have been talking with my daughter lately about the fact that we cannot control other people’s actions but we can control our own. She finds this very frustrating, as she wants the world to be “fair”. I explain that her integrity is grounded in her own choices of words, actions and people. Nothing else. The rest is out of our hands.
In working through this issue with my child, I am reminded of the parable of three gates:
In ancient Greece, Socrates was visited by an acquaintance. Eager to share some gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to hear a story that he had just heard about their friend. Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass through the three gates.
The first gate, he explained, is truth. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” The man shook his head. “Well, I heard about it from the butcher who heard it from a client, and …”
Socrates cut him off. “You do not know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?” Again, the man shook his head. “Well…not really. If our friend heard about it he would be very upset…”
Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true and it is not good or kind. One gate still remains. Is this information useful or necessary to me?” A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”
“Well, then,” Socrates said, “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”
I have always liked this parable as it underscores the importance of being mindful about what comes out of your mouth before you speak. Too often words flow out and information is shared without thinking about the consequences. This is how people get hurt.
Although I cannot protect my daughter from friendship drama, I can support her as she navigates her path through it. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Keep coming back to these three questions, my love. They will help to guide you through. They will move you away from the friends who gossip and towards the ones who choose kindness and integrity. These are one who will love you unconditionally, treat you with respect, and celebrate your unique and beautiful self. These are the friends that matter.
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