Rudyard Kipling

Owning Yourself

By Evelyn Pyburn

Few quotations strike closer to home during the current era than this, especially as it pertains to speaking truth as we see it.

I understand the reasons. In my youth I used to feel quite intimidated at having to speak in a public setting of any sort. I doubt that I was unusual in that. But as with so many things in life, I learned that the more you do it the better you get at it and the more confident you become.

Speaking up when it is the right thing to do makes you feel better about yourself, even if you find out you are wrong in what you say – you learn something new and the world does not end. It’s a challenge that encourages being well informed and requires a lot of thought, so you know why you come to the decisions that you do.

So why should one find it necessary to speak up at times? Because untruths must be challenged. Truth must be recognized even when we don’t like it. Wrong information, deceit, or mistakes often harm others. One cannot build a civilized society on untruths, maintain peace or have justice with falsehoods, and falsehoods cannot stand if they are challenged by the truth. Also, whether in your personal life or in society in general, one cannot change or improve what hasn’t been accurately identified, and that requires adherence to truth.

What most people are afraid of in speaking out is “what will others think of you?” That thinking must surely come from us being social creatures and wanting to be part of the group. It’s why Rudyard Kipling calls it “hard business.” It is not easy to stand alone, and you often will have to stand alone, because human beings are very, very susceptible to “group think” – as cowardly as it might be, it feels safe.

But while you may worry what others may think, as Kipling also points out, what you think of you is far more important. After all, you have to live with you far longer than with anyone else. The more comfortable you are with yourself the more happy that life will be. Internal peace comes in knowing that you stand for what you believe is right and you have the strength to deal with truths and reality.

One of the funniest ironies of life has to be that when a person is worried about what someone else is thinking of them, the likelihood is, if they are thinking about you at all, they are wondering what you are thinking of them. And, the real truth is (which might be disappointing to discover) most people don’t think about you as much as you think they do. In the broader world, you just aren’t that important! So, you might as well be important in your own little corner of the world.

And, you might as well know why it is you believe the things you think you believe to be true. Far too many people simply adopt the opinions of those around them and never give them any deep thought. If they have confidence in those opinions it comes from believing “everyone else thinks this, so it must be right.” Seldom is that the case.

One of the keys in speaking your mind is to LISTEN to the responses. You will find new knowledge, no matter the response. One of the things I have come to realize in such discourses is that I learn more from people who disagree with me than from those who agree.Kipling also points out, not only might you have to stand alone but it might also be frightening — a factor that also has a great deal of relevance in today’s world. But one should understand the significance of the various kinds of push back you might encounter. When people have no reasonable argument in a debate of ideas their first point of refuge is name calling. It’s not only a short cut to having to think, but it often succeeds in intimidating those with the stronger arguments into silence, which for those who tend to believe in “might over right” is some kind of hallow victory.

Coerced censorship is an even greater admission of having lost the debate. The kind of censorship we have been witnessing by those who control social media and a President who establishes a bureau of censorship is to admit that they recognize themselves to be intellectually bankrupt, and any kind of victory they hope to attain requires silencing all intellectual discourse. But, most of all they are declaring that they very vehemently believe in “might over right.” They are in fact the reason that we must be brave enough and strong enough to speak truth when seeing its need, because their acts of coercion against innocent citizens demonstrate most clearly what is at stake: our very freedom, and the right to “own ourselves.”



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