The Test of Three

This is not my original story – I truly can’t remember where I found it and so I give credit to whomever the credit should go to. It’s too wonderful not to share.

In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students….?”
“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that  what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates.. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about  to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass though, because there is a third test – the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.


I was thinking how easy it is for us to relay stories about others. Most often, we don't really know whether it's actually true. Most often, it's really not a story about anyone's virtues, it's mostly of their "sins". And lastly - I find the stories we want to tell is not all that useful - EXCEPT that it might make my ego feel better because the story makes the other person look bad.

I find it interesting how we're almost compelled to tell those stories. Something inside drives us to tell another of someone else's less-than-virtuous deeds or qualities. It's that part of us that's so willing to point the finger "out there" so that I don't have to look "in here" for the places where I'm the same.

Our ego's are really creative little creatures. As Hale Dwoskin of The Sedona Method might say - scratch it on it's tummy and tell it how cute it is. It really comes up with the most wonderful ways of creating a fuss elsewhere so that it goes off scot free.

Maybe the Test of Three is a really useful way of checking whether my ego really needs to tell that next story...

Hey, I didn't say it was going to be easy :)


"Your mind is like a functions only when open" -- Unknown

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