Test of Three

A dozen years ago, I read about the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates’ “Test of Three.”  As the story goes, Socrates proposed this test of three questions before you repeat a rumor:

  • Is it true?  If it’s not, keep your mouth shut and save your pencil and paper.
  • Is it good?  If it’s not, don’t repeat it if you are not certain it is true.
  • Is it useful?  If what you are about to say is neither true, good, or useful to anyone other than your selfish self, there is no point in repeating it.

It makes no difference whether or not Socrates actually said this, but the principle is sound regardless of its source.

Father Mike Schmitz

I remembered Socrates this morning as I listened to Father Mike Schmitz – known as “the Bulldog Catholic” – on the Hallow website.  In his ‘Minute Homily’ titled “Words Direct our Hearts,” Father Mike tells us why he tries to be careful about what he says:

  • Not everything I think needs to be said.  Say only good things that people need to hear.
  • Not everything I think is true.  As St. James tells us in James 1:19, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak and get angry.”
  • Not everything I think is actually what I think.

I invite you to listen to Father Mike’s “Words Direct Our Hearts.”

If we apply these “tests of three” to those things we are apt to say and write, we are certain to slow down, and the thoughts we share are apt to bring more value to those people we communicate with.

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  1. The commandment Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor came to mind. Two other verses I think about are Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, ‘that it may impart grace to the hearers.'” Also, there is Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, ‘that you may know how you ought to answer each one.'” I like Father Mike’s perspective.