Express Yourself

If you live in the USA (as well as many other countries, but certainly not all), you have the right to express yourself.  Freedom of speech is a cherished right.  This freedom includes the rights (and I took this directly from the website):  Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag), of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”) and to engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest). It does NOT include the right: to incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”) or to make or distribute obscene materials.  The above does not cover everything, but it gives a basic overview/common sense idea of what it means to have free speech.

We are blessed to have this freedom.  Men and women have died for this freedom.  (Something we should have all thought about this past Memorial Day.)  It's a freedom that we should not take for granted.

But just because you CAN say (or do) something, doesn't mean you should.  Words and actions can have serious repercussions. If you want to call a man with wielding a knife an "a-hole" you can certainly do that, but the results of such might not be pretty...that's to put it mildly. Common sense SHOULD tell you that you should hold your tongue in certain situations.   There is a reason why your mom (or grandma) told you "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."  And sometimes NOT saying something is more powerful than actually saying something!  

Expressing yourself and being respectful are NOT mutually exclusive.  You can do both.  It requires thought.  And that is something we don't do enough of when exercising our freedom of speech.  (I include myself in that.)  It is so easy to just blurt out something, especially in the heat of a moment.  (This is probably my biggest failure as a parent.  I may advocate T (rue)H(elpful)I(nspiring)N(ecessary)K(ind), but I don't always do it.  Even though I have a HUGE reminder on the bulletin board in my kitchen.)  Before we open our mouths, or push that post/send button, if we could ALL just stop and think a moment, we'd be in a better place.

Of course that's never going to happen, even if we try.  We are an emotional breed.  We blurt things out.  We say hurtful things so quickly that we don't have time to consider the consequences.  It's all too easy. And once those words are out there, they are out there.  There is no going back. There's no delete button or recall message.  (This is especially true of social media, as I have TRIED to emphasis to my son, once you post it, it's there forever.  You can "delete" your tweet or your post, but the truth is IT IS already out there and once you hit send, it's all over.)  As a society, we should probably take some time to think about this.  We are all quick to anger and slow to forgive.

We also need to remember that with the right of freedom of expression also comes the responsibility.  We really need to think about that!    What we say and do, doesn't just affect us; it affects those around us. (Remember how throwing a pebble in the pond creates ripples that go out and on and on?  Our words create those same ripples) For example, I COULD say anything I wanted, be it good or bad about my job, the people I work with, etc.  I AM free to speak my mind.  But as to whether I still have a job or friends depends on how I express myself. 

So, I guess what I'm trying to say here (in my roundabout way) is that be proud that you have the right to express yourself.  Use this right wisely.  Expression should not be frivolous.  Expression should be reverent. Say what needs to be said, in a way that will help and heal, not divide and wound.

I'm going to make an effort to try.  I will probably falter and fail a few times.  But hopefully I will succeed more often.  And just maybe my little section of the world will be a tiny bit better because of the way I express myself.


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