The Eight Fold Path, Step Four: RIght Speech

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I feel I should start this post with a huge declaimer; of all the steps of the Eight Fold Path, Right Speech is the one I struggle the most with. Throughout my life I’ve had problems with lying and misleading people. It’s a part of myself I don’t like, but denying it’s there would be just another form of lying. These lies were almost never done with the intention of hurting someone, but the pain they experienced from my deception was very real. Where I struggle most, is when I’m in a relationship that isn’t working out. I have a very difficult time emotionally hurting anyone, so when it’s time for a relationship to end, I will dance around the subject, lie, avoid, and hide from it at all cost. I fully know that if I could just say ‘hey this isn’t working out for me’, or even ‘I don’t really like you anymore’, this would end things quicker and in the long run be the kinder thing to do, however, I’ve had my heart broken before, and would very much not like to do that to another human being. The ironic thing is that I will lie so I don’t break their heart, which ultimately ends up breaking their heart. If I get caught in a lie, instead of just confessing and admitting my mistake, I will usually try to cover it up…with another lie.

I got married once because I simply I was afraid to tell the girl I didn’t love her. As if this wasn’t a stupid enough thing to do, I almost did it again later in life. I’ve said ‘I love you’ when I didn’t mean it, and have withheld saying it when I truly did love the person. There are people who hate me for this, who I wish I could make amends with, but can’t.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the lies as well. During the most abusive relationship I’ve ever been a part of, my partner told she loved me multiple times every day.

Because of all this, my writing about Right Speech feels very hypocritical to me…but let’s try to get through it.

I once heard this comedian say that there was no reason to physically abuse someone because emotional abuse was so much more damaging. Right Speech should be the easiest of the eight steps to follow, but I so often hear people saying the most hurtful things to one another. When I was on campus, I would often sit on the grass in between my classes, where I would see people walking by me talking on cell phones, saying horribly abusive things to whoever was on the other end.

This made me think about all those phone calls we heard coming from the passengers that were on the planes during the 9/11 attacks. None of the calls I remember had people yelling at each other, complaining, or saying hurtful things. They were all about love and telling those closest to them the things that matter most. Why do we seem to wait for tragedy before doing this? Can’t we just tell those around us that we care?

Although, I’ve had this backfire as well. I recently told a girl I liked that she was the first thing I usually thought of in the morning and the last thing I usually thought about when falling asleep. It freaked her out and she ran away.

Why is it so hard to communicate how we feel? Why is it so easy to be misunderstood?

This is why Right Speech is so important.

In traditional Buddhist texts, we are advised to refrain from slander, lies, harsh words, and frivolous speech. Although it’s not actually mentioned, Right Listening is a large part of Right Speech

Using Right Speech is equally important during our online conversations. Tweets, status updates, and even Instagrams can be hurtful and therefore must be included in our mindfulness practice.


The truly sad thing is that more often times than not, the most abusive voice we hear is the one inside our own head. Oh all the people we should use Right Speech with, yourself should top that list. Most of us would never in a million years speak to another human being the way our inner voice speaks to ourselves.

Our loving kindness should spread to all those we encounter. The ones who experience it the most should be our families and loved ones. Try to speak the truth, even when it’s painful, have integrity so that when you say something… it matters, and don’t talk just to hear yourself speak. The universe gave us two ears and one mouth. That means we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak.



  1. Sally

    I love this, Darren, & I think you’ve expressed it beautifully. I think we’ve all said things we regret, & know we can never take back, & the only way to repair it at all, is to never do it again, & forgive ourselves for the past. This is a beautiful article, thanks for sharing your truth.

    1. Darren Lamb

      Thanks Sally. That means the world to me.

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