Freedom of Speech is a funny thing. Lots of people think it not only gives them the right to say anything whenever they want, but that they have a duty to explore the outer boundaries of that freedom on a regular basis. Have you read the Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper lately? Or how about the comments on nearly any sort of newsworthy article posted on Facebook? As much as I try to avoid reading any of those these days, sometimes I get sucked in, and I’m often horrified at what my fellow citizens have to say.
Just because you have an opinion doesn’t make you right. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to broadcast it out to the world. Too many people don’t realize that sharing your opinion can often destroy relationships with those around you. Is your opinion that important? Whether it’s good or bad, does what you have to say contribute any value to a conversation? Or are you talking for the sake of talking?
The old adage of “think before you speak” comes to mind, but there’s more to it than that. It’s not enough to just think; you need to process your thoughts. Analyze them. Determine not only are they valid, but how will they affect those around me? Do these thoughts contribute to a greater understanding, or are they just noise to add to the already-deafening roar? How do you hear anything when everyone is shouting?
There’s no shame in not having a strong opinion. In saying “I don’t know” or “I’m still thinking about it”. There is no mandate to share your knee-jerk reaction to whatever celebrity pseudo-scandal is making waves today. Sometimes by not saying anything, it speaks louder than words ever could have.
Silence is golden. Let’s explore that for a while.
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