Can I Speak Openly?*

I've been hearing this phrase used a lot lately. Before a person begins sharing their thoughts, she may say something like, "I'm speaking openly here," or, "Can I speak openly?" Yes! Please do! Tell me what you really think, or just keep your mouth closed.

The fact that this phrase is being uttered speaks to the level of spin and politically correct mire that our culture has now stepped in. Sure, we need to filter what we say a bit, that is a given. There are plenty of things on my mind that should never see the light of day. But that isn't what this permission to speak is referring to. It is referring to the fact that we are now afraid to talk as independent thinkers. We have a constant guard up when we talk, afraid that our speech will not fall in the proper line of correctness. We are so anxious of offending, that we have adopted the ideology that everyone should be comfortable. And so our speech is expurgated.

There's another popular word that people say when they want permission to think freely: "Honestly," or "Can I be honest?" Who answers no to that? "No, please no, by all means do NOT be honest!" Our speech has become like the over-protective childproofed home. There are plugs in the sockets, bumpers on every sharp corner, locks on the cabinets, and over-sanitized surfaces. If I were a two year old these days, I would be terribly insulted.

Of course, if we really do speak openly, we are now vulnerable to bumping our heads and sporting our injury for a couple of weeks. I think this kind of humility is good for us. It helps us grow when we err, and it also strengthens our resolve when we need to take a stand for who we really are.

Last week my middle school daughter put on a pretty dress for her school dance. It was a classy dress, and well, let's just say that she isn't really known for her elegance yet. My high school daughter cut to the chase with a remark, "Your legs are all bruised up. Maybe you should put on some tights." Zaidee replied, "I'm a softball player. You'll have to get over it." And then she walked out of the house wearing those bruises as a badge. She knew who she was, and that made her even more beautiful than the dress.

*And then there are those revealing times where we just pronounce things funny. In which case we should expect to be badgered endlessly.