When Gurdjieff’s father died Gurdjieff was only nine years old. The father was poor. He called Gurdjieff close to him and told him, “I have nothing to give you as your inheritance. I am poor, and my father was also poor, but he gave me one thing that made me the richest man in the world, although the outside poverty remained the same. I can only transfer the same to you.
“It is some advice. Perhaps you are too young and you may not be able to do it right now, but remember it. When you are able to act according to the advice, act according to it. And the advice is simple. I will repeat it, and because I am dying, listen carefully and repeat before me what I have said so I can die satisfied that I have transferred the message that may have come down from father to son for centuries.”
The message was simple. The father said, “If somebody insults you, irritates you, annoys you, just tell him, ‘I have received your message, but I have promised my father that I will answer only after twenty-four hours. I know you are angry, I have understood it. I will come after twenty-four hours and answer you.’ And the same with anything. Give a gap of twenty-four hours.”
A nine-year-old boy repeated what the father had said, and the father died. But because it was such a moment the message became engraved. As he repeated the message, the father said, “Good. My blessings will be with you, and now I can die peacefully.” He closed his eyes and died. And Gurdjieff, even though he was nine, started practicing what was given to him.
Somebody will insult him, and he will say, “I will come after twenty-four hours to answer you because that’s what I have promised my dying father. Right now I cannot answer you.” Somebody may beat him, and he would say, “You can beat me right now, but I cannot answer. After twenty-four hours I will come and answer you, because I have promised my dying father.”
And later on he used to say to his disciples, “That simple message transformed me totally. The person was beating me but I was not going to react at that moment so there was no question except to watch. I had nothing to do: now the person was beating me, I just had to be a spectator. For twenty-four hours there was nothing to do. And watching the man created a new kind of crystallization in me. And after twenty-four hours I could see more clearly. At the moment when he was beating me it was impossible to see clearly. My eyes were full of anger. If I was going to answer at that moment I would have wrestled with the man, I would have hit the man, and everything would have been an unconscious reaction.
“But after twenty-four hours I could think about it more calmly, more quietly. Either he was right – I had done something wrong and I needed, deserved, to be beaten, to be insulted – or he was absolutely wrong. If he was right, there was nothing to say to him except to go and give him thanks. If he was absolutely wrong, there was no point at all fighting with a man who is utterly stupid and goes on doing such wrong things. It is meaningless, is wasting time. He does not deserve any answer.”
So after twenty-four hours everything settled down and a clarity was there. And with that clarity and the watchfulness of the moment, Gurdjieff changed into one of the most unique beings of this age.
This is an excerpt from Osho’s book titled “The Fire of Truth”.
I have nothing more to say except that am trying to implement it in my life and it is SO hard !! Especially for someone like me who is quick-tempered. The value of giving a gap before responding to any situation is enormous – so many blunders could be avoided. This advise is especially needed for the corporate world and those people who live in the limelight.
In the corporate world, it helps to cool off and sleep over the decision – new data might come forward or new perspectives might come up and a good decision this minute might not look that good the next day. In negotiations one can’t be in a hurry to conclude, you might just miss out on the deal or overpay. Remember the late Stephen Covey’s message “the tiny gap between stimulus and response” and mind that gap always.
For folks in public life, with social media and everything else that’s making the world shrink, whatever you utter, stays forever in the public space. Uttering something that you regret later does not help much. Better is to follow Gurdjieff’s father’s advise and wait before responding. Apparently Michelle Obama said something similar about tweeting. The former first lady said: “You don’t just say what’s on your mind. You don’t tweet every thought. Most of your first initial thoughts are not worthy of the light of day.” And she is spot on.
Wait for a few minutes, a few hours, a day …. before responding and see the quality of your response becoming so much better.
Also read my other posts on this topic –