Years ago I was a member of the Rotary Club in the metropolis of Tomball, Texas (about 30 miles from Houston), but until a couple weeks ago I’d forgotten about a cornerstone philosophy for every good Rotarian.
I was at a Rotary luncheon in Norfolk, Neb. (another metropolis) with my friend, Steve, and at the opening of their meeting the members recited what’s known as “The Four-Way Test” of Rotary International. If you’re not familiar with it – and if happen to be under 40, you probably aren’t – it goes like this:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build good will and better friendship?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Imagine if everyone, not just Rotarians, took these guidelines to heart in their interactions and communication with other people. How different might things be?
For starters, I think about 75 percent of everything elected officials and candidates for public office say would have to be eliminated – and they’d have a lot of apologizing to do. If they’re humble enough, they might even seek forgiveness. When facts are distorted and opponents misrepresented, all for the sake of gaining political advantage, they violate all four.
At least half of what we read on Facebook, Twitter and other social media couldn’t be posted, because in many cases words are used as weapons to wound, not as tools for building up.
So-called “fans” of college and pro football teams would have to keep silent, because their boorish behavior and hateful criticisms too commonly are untrue, unfair, not conducive for good will and friendship, and hardly beneficial for anyone. The same applies to many parents at youth sporting events who despite having little real understanding of the game, shout and carry on in very disruptive ways.
Commentators on cable news networks – Fox, CNN, MSNBC and others – would often have to practice the adage that “silence is golden.” Or else reassemble their facts in ways that aren’t stacked strategically to support their ideological biases and delude viewers and hearers.
Marriages could be transformed, as husbands and wives chose discretion and consideration rather than emotional impulse for guiding their conversations and shaping their relationships.
Many educators would have to totally rewrite their curricula, since their course content too often is engineered to influence inquiring student minds into believing their propagandist teachings and philosophies. Similarly, the entertainment media would have to drastically revise and reproduce agenda-driven movies, TV programming and videos, all disguised as means to “entertain.”
And leaders of various religions – including many in Christianity – would be forced to carefully re-examine their dogmatic and often judgmental pronouncements. They could feel compelled to answer the penetrating question asked by Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), rather than presuming they already know.
If we all embraced Rotary’s “Four-Way Test,” we might all be persuaded to apply the exhortation of Ephesians 4:29, which tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”