Tact is a thread which connects Heaven and earth, making them one. Tact, therefore, is not learnt by worldly cleverness; earthly qualifications do not make a man really tactful. He may imitate a tactful person, but polish is different from gentleness.
What does tact come from? Tact comes from the profound depth of the human heart, for it is a sense which is developed by human sympathy. A selfish person, therefore, cannot prove to be tactful to the end. He will perhaps begin by tactfulness, but end in losing that spirit, because false tactfulness will not endure; it is the real alone that can endure—object or person, both. Tactfulness comes by our consideration for one another, and that consideration comes by our feeling for one another, by our sympathy for one another. And what is consideration? Consideration is a feeling that, “all that is displeasing, and distasteful, disagreeable to me—I must not cause the same thing which displeases me to another.” And tactfulness as a wisdom develops from this sense. A man may be most learned, most capable, most influential, and yet may not be tactful. Tactfulness is the sign of the great ones; great statesmen, kings, leaders, heroes, the most learned men, the great servers of humanity, were tactful. They won their enemies, their worst adversaries by their tactfulness; they accomplished most difficult things to accomplish in life by the power of tactfulness.
One never can say, “I have enough tactfulness.” It is never enough. A really tactful person finds more faults with himself, having not proved to be tactful enough in his everyday life, than a tactless person. As one becomes more tactful, so one finds more fault with himself, because there are many shortcomings—actions automatically manifest, words slip off from the tongue; then the tactful one thinks and sees that he did not do right. But as Sa’adi says, “When once it is done, then you, thoughtful one, repent of it. This is not the time to repent, you ought to have controlled yourself first.”
One becomes tactful by self-discipline, one develops tactfulness by self-control. A tactful person is subtle, fine, poetic. He shows real learning and fine intelligence. Many say, “But how can we be tactful and at the same time truthful?” Many look at the fineness of the tactful person and say: “Hypocritical!” But what is the use of that truth which is thrown at a person’s head as a big stone, breaking his head with it. A truth which has no beauty, what sort of truth is it? What kind of truth is it? The Koran says, “God is beautiful”; therefore, truth must be beautiful. If it were not beautiful, then the beauty-seeking souls and intelligent beings would not have sought after truth.
It is not always necessary that we must say things which could just as well not have been said. Very often it is a weakness on the part of a person to drop a word which could have been avoided. It is the tactful soul who becomes large, because he does not always express outwardly. Therefore his heart that accommodates wisdom becomes larger, it becomes a reservoir of wisdom, of thoughtfulness. It is the tactful person who becomes popular, it is the tactful person who is loved, it is the tactful person that people listen to.
Besides, it is by tactfulness that we maintain the harmony of our lives—if not, life would turn into a stormy sea. The influences coming from all around in our everyday life are enough to disturb the peace of our lives, and if we were tactless in addition to it, what would then be the result? Then there would be one continual storm in our lives and there could never be peace. It is by tactfulness that we make a balance against all inharmonious influences which have a jarring effect upon our spirit. If disharmony comes from all sides and if we are creative of harmony, it counterbalances it and it makes our life easy for us to bear. What is goodness, piety or orthodoxy without wisdom, without tactfulness? What does a good person accomplish by his goodness if he is not able to give a pleasure, a happiness by what he says or does? Of what use is his piety or spirituality if he is not creative of happiness for those who come in contact with him? It is therefore by tactfulness that we begin our work of healing ourselves and others.
The Sufis of all ages have been known for their beautiful personality. It does not mean that among them have not been people with great powers, wonderful powers, and wisdom. But above all what is most known of the Sufis is the human side of their nature, that tactfulness which tuned them with wise and foolish, with poor and rich, with strong and weak, with all. They met everyone on his own plane, they spoke to everyone in his own language. And what did Jesus Christ teach when he said to the fishermen, “Come hither, I will make you fishers of men.” It does not mean, “I will teach you ways so that you will get the best of men.” It only meant that your tactfulness, your sympathy, will spread its arms as the mother’s arms spread for her little one, before every soul that comes. The Sufis say, “Neither are we here to become angels, nor to live as animals do. We are here to sympathize with one another, and bring them happiness which we always seek.” Yes, there are many thorns on the path of life, the faults of others which prick as stings, as thorns, but when we look at ourselves we have the same faults—if not more, less. Therefore, if we spare others the thorn that comes out of us, that much help we would give to our fellowmen; and that is not a small help. It is in tactfulness that we accomplish our sacred duty, we perform our religion. For how do we please God? We please God by trying to please mankind.