The fourth precept is to refrain from false, harmful and reckless speech. Speech is a primary way in which we relate to and communicate with each other. It can enhance connection, or be the agent of disconnection. In expressing our intentions and aspirations, our words, mindfully spoken, can remind us of what we hold most dear.
This precept is perhaps the most difficult to undertake, as it is truly a moment to moment, constant practice as we navigate and speak into our myriad relationships. It takes presence to notice the impulse to speak and before uttering, to pause, ask whether it is kind, true, necessary, useful and timely. What would the world be like if everyone practiced in this way? Imagine friends, family, even politicians, all practicing together, then decide how you want to speak.
Why do we lie? Perhaps to aggrandize our sense of self-importance, or to avoid the consequences of our actions. Of course, it simply overlays untrustworthiness on a difficult truth. Yet, honest speech without compassion can have the seductive power of self-righteousness and be cruel. We see how subtle and nuanced this practice is.
Implicit in refraining from speech that is untrue, harsh, useless or judgmental, is our ability to see intention. We can pause and consider before we speak, uttering what is based on loving kindness, truth, helpfulness and timeliness. Imagine how this will save energy for other endeavors!
It takes discipline, kindness and mindfulness.