Bite Your Tongue

Originally posted on on October 3, 2011.

One of the lessons you learn early on is to never discuss politics or religion if you want to maintain the relative harmony of a group in a general social situation. We refrain from speaking our minds in certain situations so as not to “upset the apple cart” and to avoid conflict and hurt feelings. But is this really the way to handle it? Should politeness stand in the way of open discourse? And even if you “know” the other person has their mind made up, should you really not “waste your breath” by bringing up an opposing view point?

Between blogs and Twitter and Facebook, not to mention 24-hour news stations and talk radio and podcasts…there are a lot of voices out there who speak their mind regardless of and sometimes because of the reaction it will generate. Due to so many forums, it is also easy to choose the sources that align most closely with your own views and tune out those that diverge. And all too often there is a genuine lack of respect and a whole lot of talking but very little listening going on.

While you should respect the right of a person to have different opinions from you and give voice to them, no matter how personally infuriating you may find them, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell your side of things. Maybe the other person won’t listen and you might very likely get into a shouting match, but every so often you might be surprised to find out that you and that other person fall into an engaging, open dialogue that is an actual discussion instead of an out-for-blood battle.

As with many things, there is a time and a place. But then again, we fall back on that as an excuse to avoid conflict far too often. We don’t want to disrupt the family holiday, so we bite our tongue when Great-Aunt Jane proclaims that everyone who isn’t of x religion will burn in a fiery bit, and we remain silent when Cousin Joe goes on a tirade about that ethnic group, and we stare at our plate when Uncle John starts going off on those people of a certain political bent. Why should one side get heard just because it’s louder and anything contradictory to that might “rock the boat”?

Some people don’t like conflict, and I respect that. Some of us know that if we do get drawn into a heated debate that we might very well go overboard when our temper flares, so we refrain from such situations as best as we can. It’s partly self-preservation, but it’s also has a hearty dose of fear. If we do speak up, we might not only cause social discord, but maybe, just maybe someone will actually listen. Then what?

It’s always safer to sit back and stay out of the fray, but playing it safe is no way to live. Bad things can happen when you don’t speak up. Very bad things. Speaking up might put you “in the line of fire”, but is that such a terrible thing when your voice might be the one that gives that other person pause to consider, maybe even reconsider, and in the end something good may come of it.

And just so I’m not standing on a soap box here, go ahead and ask me anything about anything, no topic is off the table. However, remember that it’s a two way street, as it should be. Who knows, maybe we both might wind up with something to think about. Where’s the bad in that?

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