Talking Properly: Politeness or Honesty?
“Pious people have superior virtues. Their words are proper.” [Imam Ali (as), The Muttaqin Sermon] At the top of the list of moral virtues, which Imam Ali (as) lists for pious people, are controlling one’s tongue and speaking... Show More >>Talking Properly: Politeness or Honesty?
“Pious people have superior virtues. Their words are proper.” [Imam Ali (as), The Muttaqin Sermon] At the top of the list of moral virtues, which Imam Ali (as) lists for pious people, are controlling one’s tongue and speaking correctly.
“Pious people have superior virtues. Their words are proper.” “Their words are proper” tells us a few things. Being proper does not mean being honest. You can talk honestly and ruin a nation. You can talk honestly and ruin a person. Backbiting is saying something that is true. [One says,] “I’m saying the truth [about him].” You are wrong to say this truth! You shouldn’t say all true things. You shouldn’t talk about a person’s fault when he is absent. Don’t say that. It is even said that when a person backbites you should defend the one who is absent. You shouldn’t say all truths. Proper doesn’t mean honesty. Talking properly is different from talking honestly.
Sometimes people talk honestly in order to relieve themselves, but they shouldn’t. They tell others about their sufferings, but they shouldn’t. People sometimes talk honestly and tell others about the good deeds they have done, and that is hypocrisy. People sometimes talk honestly and show their hatred toward others. I can tell you numerous examples of honest words that are not “proper.”
But I have to tell you one thing. Speaking the truth, in any area, reduces a person’s mental pressures. When you tell other people’s secrets, you release yourself. When you talk about your own pains, you release yourself. When you talk about your hatred, you release yourself.
It’s interesting that some people say any truth and say, “My conscience is at ease this way.” That is not their conscious. They have relieved themselves in a way that God didn’t want. Releasing yourself like this ruins you and makes you cheap. Not all ways of finding ease are good. In the past, some psychologists used to say that if a person’s father has passed away and he has inherited money, since an obstacle has been removed from his life, why should he act like he is upset? He can easily go, have fun and say that he’s happy.
Such a society will gradually lose its modesty. Do you know what happens when there is no modesty? When there is no modesty and people relieve themselves by talking honestly, they become weak. When you control your honesty due to your modesty and other boundaries, you will feel a pressure. This pressure makes a person grow and strengthens him. For example, when one gets angry, he shouldn’t curse. This brings a pressure. [One says,] “I honestly ask God to make you wretched! I wish you didn’t exist on this earth!” You should have controlled this! The result of some kinds of honesty is weakness. This pressure makes a person grow. It strengthens him.
Should we push children to be honest or polite? Politeness. What is politeness? It’s basically modesty. Politeness tells a person what he shouldn’t say. Is politeness more valuable or honesty? If you don’t attack me, I’ll say politeness. A child likes to say many things honestly. But you should tell him, “You should observe these rules when you talk. This is politeness.”
“Pious people have superior virtues. Their words are proper.”
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