“But therein lies the paradox: Speaking out and being ‘real’ are not necessarily virtues. Sometimes voicing our thoughts and feelings shuts down the lines of communication, diminishes or shames another person, or makes it less likely that two people can hear each other or even stay in the same room. Nor is talking always a solution. We know from personal experience that our best intentions to process a difficult issue can move a situation from bad to worse. We can also talk a particular subject to death, or focus on the negative in a way that draws us deeper into it, when we’d be better off distracting ourselves and going bowling.”
― Harriet Lerner,
The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. For more on unprotected and less protected categories of speech see advocacy of illegal action, fighting words, commercial speech and obscenity. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message. The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place.
Is Free Speech Really Free?
Don’t judge me, but I’ve never been politically active nor interested in the world of politics. I respect those who are, definitely care and pray, but overall, I read enough to make an informed vote and that is it.
But, I’d have to be an ostrich to ignore the firestorm of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race. Never in my life have I been more disappointed in my fellow Americans. Two specific reasons disturb me:
- Our children and youth are watching.
- Our country’s future is in serious trouble.
The Power of Example
Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them. It’s time to stop bringing grief to God’s Holy Spirit; you have been sealed with the Spirit, marked as His own for the day of rescue. Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison (Ephesians [4:29]-31, The Voice).
For years, I drilled Proverbs 18:21 and Ephesians 4:29-31 (The Voice), into the hearts of both my children and my students—and today use it regularly in all of my counseling/coaching sessions. Call me simple, but I sincerely believe that if we put this into practice, each and every one of our relationships will improve and ultimately, thrive.
[Great burlap sign from Shop Mollie’s Market, Etsy]
Free Speech Can Be Costly
Costly defined, “
So, witnessing the very poor communication skills of grown men, stationed in high positions of public life, act so out-of-control and demeaning, sincerely makes me sick to my stomach. When did it become okay to act so foolishly?
Free speech, like we’re witnessing 24/7 on every news media channel, is costing us dearly.
SNL’s mockery is funny, sure, but as one prime time anchor stated, “It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious.”
No Greater Teacher Than a Bad Example
I can’t change the bad behavior of any of these political candidates, but I can change myself.
When I see bad examples, I try to look in the mirror of my own life and see if there is anywhere in my life where I might be hurting others with my words and actions.
That’s all I can do.
Will you join me? Take some necessary introspection and see where you can communicate better. Your family can communicate better. Your workplace can communicate better. Your community of faith can communicate better.
The world is watching. What do they see?
A Little Heart Work
- “According to experts, a woman uses on average anywhere from 20,000-25,000 words a day—which doesn’t even include facial expressions (glares, glances, evil eyes, or huffs and puffs), vocal range (tone of voice, inflection, volume, or the ultimate killer—silence), or body posture (stances, shrugged shoulders, or slumps). Women, according to Dr. Louann Brizendine, are ‘lean mean communicating machines.’”
Take a few sacred moments to look back on the week. Where could you improve your communication skills? Do you need to sit down with someone and “rewind and reset” the conversation—ask for forgiveness or understanding or healing?
- There is nothing new under the sun. The guidelines for keeping conversations drama-free (meaning demeaning, harsh, belittling, mean spirited) sit on the shelves of our homes. I have at least 12 Bibles in my office—some within arms reach, others a few steps from my desk. It will take a lifetime, and I’ve already lived half of mine, to put into practice what is inside the pages of the Holy Book. I’ve gathered principles and am challenged by them, each hour of each day. Choose one, maybe start with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and read through it with your family. How is everyone doing with the practice of this scripture?
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
- Ephesians 4
- Colossians 3
- Philippians 2
- James 3
- 1 John 1-3
- The really hard question: Do I use social media as a place to exercise “free speech,” that really isn’t free?