16.02 – What we speak about others speaks about us
We reveal more about ourselves when we speak about others than when we speak about ourselves. All our words offer listeners glimpses into our heart. When we speak about ourselves, we consciously present our best image, concealing our blemishes and biases. However, when we speak about others, often those blemishes and biases unconsciously flow through our speech. From our descriptions of others, perceptive hearers gather more about us than about those whom we describe.
Ungodly people frequently delight in passing biting comments about others, usually behind the back. They imagine taunting others to be ‘cool’, for it earns them cheers among other ungodly people. However, this so-called coolness eventually dries up their listeners’ trust in them. Their audience infers: “If they can speak like this about others, tomorrow if my relationship with them becomes strained, what will stop them from speaking similarly about me?”
Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (16.02) mentions aversion to fault-finding (apaishunam) as an important quality of godly people. Those devoted to Krishna see everyone as his parts and so as potentially godly. Such devotees strive to use all their faculties, including speech, in the service of Krishna. When they speak about others, they judiciously choose words that either appreciate the patent godliness or kindle the latent godliness of others. When these devotees accept the role of teachers on behalf of Krishna, they may speak about the ungodly traits that obscure others’ godliness. Such speech is motivated not by derision but by compassion: the desire to aid others in becoming godly. Thus, even their critical speech about others gives us glimpses into Krishna’s wisdom and love residing in their heart.
By emulating their scrupulous speech, we can not only use our speech to serve Krishna and go closer to him but also encourage others to become godly.