Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Sixth Grave Precept

See the perfection. Do not speak of others' errors and faults.

Growing up I got such mixed messages about talking about other people. On one hand we would be punished for “talking back”, arguing or being perceived as being disrespectful. On the other hand it was quite common for me to hear my Mom, grandmother or aunt gossiping about other family members, co-workers and friends. When we weren’t all together I would hear my Mom talking negatively about my grandmother, my aunt and my cousins. Even today my Mom still likes to talk over the misfortunes of others and make what I often consider to be rather racist comments about the migrant workers in the field near her home.

During my divorce this year I found myself really trying to focus on the precepts. Walking a fine line between acknowledging the ways in which I felt the marriage had been undermined, issues that were on-going above and beyond my initial unwillingness to accept my own sexuality. Even if that hadn’t been there, AM and I had several other deeply rooted problems.

Like all of the other precepts I find myself looking deeply at why I am talking about what I perceive as the faults of others. Is it necessary to talk about such things? Why do I feel the need to share my opinion. How do I talk constructively with people when their actions feel harmful, unhealthy to me?

I’ve tried to keep focused on not judging a whole person by some of their actions, what I may perceive as an error or fault. I look deeply at why I may be feeling hurt, fearful or angry and if it is strong enough that I need to share with someone how their behavior is impacting me. I don’t talk about these kinds of issues as widely as I once did. It might be reasonable to discuss the behavior of one person with another, but in doing so I now try to keep focused on how the behavior in question is affecting me, is my response reasonable and what constructive approaches I can use to address it with that person. Using that third-party for their ability to observe the situation from a different view than I have, not to just have a “ranting session” with no real purpose to it.

I also have become very aware of how easy it is for groups to fall into discussing the perceived errors and faults of others, especially celebrities. Whole industries have arisen to enable this kind of behavior. It is perfectly acceptable in society to gossip about a celebrity. I don’t know any celebrities directly, so it has become pretty easy to just not participate in conversations like this.

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