When I was about 18, a family member who was at my birthday commented on the appearance of one of the other guests. I remember the exact words, but they don’t translate well, so the gist will have to do. She basically said, loudly, that the person in question had the fattest legs she’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe my ears and, shocked, exclaimed that she was so out of line. The family member then asked the these days so often heard rhetorical question: ‘Am I not allowed to express my opinion?’ Although her question was rhetorical, I gave her an answer anyway. It was a clear and indignant ‘No! You are not! This is not an opinion, this is a thoughtless insult.’
My freedom ends where yours begins and vice versa
Freedom of speech, a right people have died for. People are still dying for our right to speak our minds. It is a great good and a sign of true civilisation. However, it is also grossly misused by people who just like to hear themselves talk or see their opinions on paper. I’m grossed out when I surf the net and see totally uncalled for reactions, that seem to have to sole purpose of hurting a fellow human being. These people do not exercise there freedom of speech, they exercise their freedom of spite. They utter the death treats at the address of people that voice a different opinion, the blatant insults towards people that look or act differently without hurting a soul with it. These are the people who argue for the sake of arguing, just because they are verbally stronger than the person opposite them and like feeling in charge, because in their own life they feel a lack of control. It is where sincere human communication turns into a mouthpiece of the ego.
Of course, there are gradations in freedom of spite, just as there are gradations in freedom of speech. But, although some seem harmless enough, I sincerely think people should think before they open their mouths or hit that send button.
Don’t ask questions if you are not willing to really listen to the anwers
As an unschooler and person that consciously chooses to live life differently from what is considered mainstream, I get a lot of questions and remarks. Most of the time I don’t mind and I answer the same questions and tell the same stories time and time again. Sometimes, however, I don’t. Sometimes it becomes clear fairly quickly that the questions and remarks are not about genuine interest. They are only about voicing one’s own opinions. I can just tell that people aren’t listening to my carefully chosen words, but instead are already anticipating on their next question or remark, which will invariably follow the same line of reasoning of the one before. My answer or response doesn’t matter. So in these cases, I just don’t waste my time. Freedom of spite ends where my freedom to not listen or respond starts.
Sometimes it is better to just keep your mouth shut
So here’s to all those people who ask questions and give reactions all over the world. What is your goal? Are you genuinely interested or do you just want to hear yourself talk? Do you want to change a situation that affects you? Or do you need to feel important and are you therefore interfering with matters that don’t concern you? And if you realise that your motives are not all that honourable, could you just stay out of whatever it was you were considering getting into? Shall we agree to just live and let live? To not judge and realise that is okay to not all be the same, not all believe in the same things? Don’t you think that would make the world a much nicer place to live in?
Choose your words carefully. Make sure you can fully endorse them before you send them ‘out there’. Start by doing it out loud and move on by doing it internally as well. Being careful with your words, both inside and out, is a huge step towards tolerance.
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