If you are wondering how to find inner peace, you can begin with a simple self-inquiry into your daily habits. How many times do you check social media per day? How about watching the news on TV or online, or reading the latest headlines? Do you watch Hulu or Netflix? How about listening to podcasts?
Needless to say, we consume quite a bit of information in our daily lives. More, in fact, than at any other time in human history. With our smartphones and laptops always at our fingertips, there’s nothing that keeps us from finding and absorbing information in an instant.
While this has obvious advantages, the downside is that we can potentially absorb a lot of information that isn’t for our highest good. Your life can be made or marred by information. It’s the norm to find information that’s designed to elicit emotions like anger, fear, and rage without even looking for it. Social media is rife with such “clickbait,” and it has a negative effect on how we view the world and go about our lives.
Just think about the last time you read an emotionally-charged headline. Did your heartbeat quicken? Did you have a verbal reaction? Did you feel compelled to reply and add your two cents to the conversation?
It’s all very easy to get caught up in the momentum of the media machine without even giving it a second thought. After all, if everyone around you is outraged, then it can feel normal for you to become outraged too. However, this as a way of life won’t lead you to peace. Quite the contrary: it leads to stress and anxiety, and will eventually manifest as diseases and other ailments. If having personal peace is your goal, then we would do well to apply the Socrates filter when taking anything into our precious minds.
What is the Socrates Filter?
In the Peace Manual, Brother Ishmael Tetteh talks about how media outlets, including social media, play an important part in creating world peace. It comes from a story of the philosopher Socrates, and a friend that was eager to tell him a piece of information about someone. Before the friend could speak, Socrates stopped and said, “Before you tell me this information, I would like to ask you something. Could you be you absolutely sure what you’re about to tell
me is the truth?”
The reply was, no.
Socrates again asked, “Are you about to tell me something good?”
The reply was again, no.
“So you’re not sure if what you’re about to tell me is good or even true.” Socrates figured that it was possible that even still, this tidbit could be a necessary warning. So he asked, “Is what you’re about to tell me something useful?”
The friend, by now feeling embarrassed, replied with, “No.”
“So since this information may be untrue, it’s not good, and it’s not even useful, then it’s not worth it for you to tell me, or anyone else for that matter.”
Filtering Information In Your Own Life
Whenever you’re about to give or receive a piece of information, you can ask yourself these three questions:
- Can I be sure that this is absolutely true? That friend spreading rumors at work, that Hollywood gossip account on Twitter, and news that is “allegedly” true are all subject to the filter. No matter what your source of information is, if you cannot be personally sure that it is true, subject it to further examination.
- Is the information something good? Just about every news network fails to pass this question more often than not. It’s good to be informed, but too much negative news will take its toll on your mind and body. Good information going from you or coming to you will grow your soul. Bad information puts you into fear, anger, shame or guilt, and ultimately rob you of your peace. Don’t allow malicious and negative news to flood your mind and plant their seeds.
- Is the information beneficial? The information you or anyone else spreads should be beneficial to promoting life and the lives of those who hear it. To promote life is to help life expand in positive ways. Ask yourself if what you are saying, reading, listening to or watching is going to improve your life or the lives of others.
If any information doesn’t pass this test, dump it in your mental wastebasket. It’s not everything you have to click on, download, watch, or share. You will not only feel better for avoiding such information, but you’ll also pave the way for more peace and positive outcomes in your life.
The Socrates filter is a useful tool for those who desire to cultivate more peace within themselves, and thus the world. Give it a try for one week and see what a difference it makes for you.
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