The Practice of Freedom: Speech vs. Abusive Speech

In response to this conversation:What is Abuse? I was inspired by the intellectual ping-pong across the U.S.-Canadian border.


I’ve been working through the issues relating to freedom out on my blog for the last two months, in ways sometimes veiled and sometimes overt. It’s been coming up in my conversations with friends, so it’s obviously a sticking point for me.

The exercise of freedom comes with responsibility. Abuse on the internet often reflects the decoupling between our actions (writing of strongly-worded statements) and their psychological consequences to the reader. In the worst case, some manage to create whirlpools of angst that they use to suck psychic energy out of others.

It is that pure spiritual experience – clicking on a link and feeling the energy drain out of me – that causes me to shy from the American celebration of “freedom of speech.” Speech is an action that generates a psychological context that creates a social dynamic. We need to ask ourselves “What kind of society are we generating with our speech?”

In all except a very few cases, Jesus did not attack the powerful. He built a community of disciples around him – the weak and dispossessed. When his teachings were contradicted by the religious authorities of the day, he would expose their hypocrisy, but always for the benefit of the understanding of his disciples. So I think that the it is necessary to focus first on trying to use our words to lift up those that have been beaten down, and only turn negative when deconstructing the conventions of thought that hold them down.