"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
November 27, 2012
Triple Filter
by Vickey Pahnke Taylor

Triple filter. Sometimes I need the triple-filter process as an advanced protection system — for me and for anyone I may speak about, just in case I’m tempted (when upset, not thinking clearly, or temporarily bothered) to say something I shouldn’t.

In the most correct and Christian terms, it’s the rule we were taught as children. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t’ say anything at all.”

As we’re working on ourselves — digging out a flaw here, scouring off a personal weakness there — it’s nice to have specific tools that assist in our divine growth.

There is an old story about using a triple-filter process before we speak to others. It is, obviously, paraphrased. And we’ve all heard similar stories, with credit given to one person or another. Let’s just give the credit to the Savior. It is His work and His Church that gives us the necessary tools, attributes, and processes we need. All light and goodness come from Him. And He is our way back to our Father.

Here’s the story.  The triple filters? Truth, Goodness, and Usefulness:

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

Socrates wisely spoke these words: "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. It is a triple-filter test.

The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?" "Well, no," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and…"

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Let us try the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"Umm, no, on the contrary…"

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test, though, because there’s one filter left. It is the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "Why, my friend, would you want to tell me something that is neither true, nor good, nor even useful? Would it not be better to not tell me at all?”

Even when I’m a whiner forty-niner, I’d be wise to remember the triple-filter test — ever day, all the time.

Like Winnie the Pooh, I need to carry that pot for Very Useful Things, and pull them out when needed. Among them would be the triple-filter test.  When all is said and done, only goodness, truth, and useful things will matter.

Christ taught it this way: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

If we are to “love [our] neighbor as [our]self,” this test will bless us on a daily basis. And it’s a pretty simple tool to get in the habit of using.

God bless us to take a simple, loving approach when we speak of another. What a lovely way of simplifying our lives!


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About Vickey Pahnke Taylor

Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, author, and songwriter. Her undergraduate study at BYU was musical theater. She has a Masters degree in interpersonal communications.

A Billboard award-winning songwriter with hundreds of songs to her credit, she uses music as a teaching tool. But her favorite way to use music has been to sing to her children. You should hear the family's rousing versions of "Happy Birthday"!

In addition to three solo albums in the LDS market, she co-wrote "Women at the Well" with Kenneth Cope and "My Beloved Christ: with Randy Kartchner. She is co-writer of the theme song for Utah's Make-A-Wish foundation, the song for the Special Olympics program, and EFY's theme song.

She writes for several online magazines and columns, and has authored several books. Her website, www.goodnessmatters.com, is her way of continuing to grow goodness in the world, pointing people gently toward Christ and eternal principles of truth.

She has spoken for the Church's various Youth and Family programs for 25 years. She and her husband Dean have eight children and four grandchildren. She adores being a wife, mom and grandmother. She loves flowers, brownies, cooking Italian and Southern foods, the ocean, and laughing every chance she gets.

Vickey was baptized a member of the Church as a teenager in Virginia. She serves as gospel doctrine teacher in her ward, and Dean serves on their stake high council.

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