by Richard Thomas Watkins

I sit daily In my little part of this world and listen to those around me who talk… and talk… and talk. . . and never say anything of substance. They share “war stories” with others of who they once were; they have no concept of what it means to become someone better. They focus on what they did to get here and can’t wait to get out and do it all again. I guess it makes them feel important, like they’re “someone” others should listen to.

I have no place in such conversations and do all I can to avoid them. I don’t tell “war stories” anymore and I never encourage others to tell them. I realized long ago they are the stories told by desperate Individuals to feel something other than the self-hatred and self-pity that consumes them. They use these stories to feel alive and don’t realize they die a little more inside each time they tell them.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have a story to tell, some of us have several, but we have to ask ourselves: “Why do we tell our story?” Is it for selfish gain or is it to lift others up? Is it to make ourselves feel better because we are lacking in some area of our lives or is it to make others feel better because they are lacking in some area of their life?

Others listen to the things we say more closely than we think and form an opinion about us, and our intentions based on the things we say AND how we say them. If all we talk about is how much we love the bad things we used to do (like so many around me) then we will be looked upon as someone who has not changed, who has no intention of changing anything about themselves. Those Individuals will be held accountable for that. I am guilty of such “opinion forming” about many of the individuals around me but I am not wrong for that.

If we are not careful, we say things others will define incorrectly. I have painfully learned that no matter what we are going through: pain, suffering, sadness, loneliness, great loss, even at such times we must select our words very carefully. We must never allow our words to portray anything other than what we intend when we say them. Never give others a place through your words to create a false narrative of your intentions. We have all heard the statement, “think before you speak.” Why do so many of us not do that?

One of the greatest things about our country, no matter how we feel about the politics within it, is our freedom to say what we want when we want. After all, “freedom of speech” is our First Amendment Right as an American citizen. I believe that “freedom” implies a responsibility, however, for all those who intend for others to hear their words, I think many of us misunderstand what “freedom of speech” is. It is not the freedom to say whatever we want. It is the freedom to say whatever we want as long as we say it responsibly… It is the freedom to say whatever we want as long as we are ready to accept the consequences of what we say irresponsibly.