Rumor Control

Ed Jones

One of my pet peeves is rumors. Anyone can start them, and no one seems to be able to stop them. It reminds me of the “unnamed experts” so often quoted in the media today. The following tale proves that I wasn’t close to being the first to be bothered by unsubstantiated rumor. Keep this story in mind the next time you hear, or are about to repeat, a rumor.

In ancient Greece (469–399 BC) Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day, the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student, let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So, you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary …”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass, though, because there is a third test—the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really …”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

A quote attributed to the philosopher puts a period on the story. Socrates once said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.”

While Socrates was no prophet, he did mirror sentiments found in the Word of God. A few that come to mind: 1) “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” (Proverbs 16:28); 2) “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” and 3) “… to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 3:2)

Ed Jones pastors Fellowship At The Ranch at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website for information.