Maria Lutgarda Glorioso
At some point in our lives we have encountered two different individuals that had immense power over our speech. There is one person that is capable of opening your mind, allowing you to speak freely. They empower you to reach into your thoughts and speak without judgment. You feel safe enough in this environment to speak your truth as well as engage in listening to others without judging them. Everyone present in the room is vulnerable but secure enough to know that this experience is mutual.
On the other hand, we have experienced a different type of person who shuts us up. They create a threatening and unwelcoming environment. We feel as though we cannot speak out. We feel our words stuck in our throats, yearning to speak. Our minds begin to close to the idea that we can engage in free discussion. We do not want to listen to others because we cannot be heard. We are closed off from ourselves and from others. This experience is alienating and makes us apathetic to our experience. No one feels secure to engage in dialogue because they have their guard up to protect from judgment.
Now, I believe it is also safe to assume that at some point in our lives we have embodied these two different individuals. We have engaged in fruitful discussions and promulgated a welcoming atmosphere. Although it is difficult to admit, we have also disengaged by closing our minds to others and ourselves, wanting to say things but keeping quiet out of fear or anger. We refuse to listen because what they say might threaten our beliefs and values so we guard ourselves from them and their words.
One of the greatest threats to freedom of speech is ourselves. We self-silence and disengage. We are too proud to listen. We lack the courage to speak. We guard ourselves from words and the people who we fear may threaten our identities. We disempower others by disempowering ourselves. By discouraging others to speak freely, we discourage ourselves from adhering to our own moral compasses.
Do you listen? Do you speak? What does your identity comprise of? How have you engaged or disengaged?
Before we can speak out against the words of others we have to look within and evaluate where we stand. Where are you on the spectrum?