Our Four-Way Test

My grandfather always said, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” He spoke these words with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes, of course, but it is amazing how often I have been surprised by the un-truth in life.

Each week at Gate City we stand and recite The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

In speaking these words, we are claiming a noble commitment that begins with the truth. What is the truth? Is the truth simply based on accurate facts? Am I free to speak, think, or do whatever I please as long as it is factual? Perhaps we can better understand what the truth is by looking at what it is not.

I made up an old saying that says, “A lie is anything that is done, said or thought with the intention of deceiving.” So by comparison, the truth would be speaking not only factually, but doing so in such a way that eliminates deceit. In fact, this is largely what I see the second through fourth elements of the Four-Way Test to be about: refining our understanding of truthful actions to eliminate harm, deceit and ill will.

What we are about as Rotarians needs to be not only factual (true) but fair, beneficial, friendly and done with good will. In holding ourselves to these standards we are elevating our lives to be truthful to the fullest extent.

Thought for comments - I believe there is another, very important assumption about the Four-Way Test. In holding ourselves to these four tests we are claiming that we can, in fact, choose and change our behaviors. If I find myself dwelling on negative thoughts, the Four-Way test can help me recognize the need to change my thinking. When I catch myself wanting to speak less than helpful words about another, the test empowers me to hold my tongue. The desire to act in an uncaring way toward a colleague can be stopped short by a quick application of the test. Have you found the Four-Way Test to be helpful? How?