This I Believe

Jason - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 17, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in biting your tongue. As the brunt and the author of off the cuff remarks, this I believe. Self-restraint may not be the most glamorous pursuit but is a fulfilling one.

I had come home in tears. My third grade disastrous diorama had garnered a failing grade. I soon discovered that my messy project was not thanks to elementary school laziness but by the fine motor skills-impairing syndrome dysgrapghia. As I grew through elementary school, I continued to struggle with the same old interrogations: “Why are your p’s and q’s so…. weird?” Approaching high school, I kept struggling, but the snickers morphed into murmurs: “The teacher let you type this essay and not pen it out?”

My high school’s seventh period bell had rung, and I hurled my barely legible notes in my book bag and rushed outside. I saw a stranger’s hand wave at me. My eye shifted from his warm gesture to his legs—they quivered. He moved sporadically, almost like a seizure victim. He must have cerebral palsy, I thought. I cringed.

Of course we have a freedom to speak. Of course I have a right to cringe. But the most satisfying pursuit is to sometimes not speak. We owe it to ourselves to sometimes look the other way, to be mature enough not to ask, to be humane enough to protect others from our thoughts.

The next week I spotted the waver again. He exercised his predictable gesture, but I chose to nod instead of gawk, to follow the golden rule by censoring my expressions.

Is unfiltered speech pleasing? Yes. But so is not thinking—or at least not showing— thoughts. Thoughts that could scar another. I believe that words hold more value to the hurt than to the speaker. Many claim that my belief is impractical. Others say it’s un-American. I believe protecting everyone’s pursuit of happiness through verbal responsibility personifies America. I believe that this obligation stretches everywhere since we all hold flaws we’d prefer to be overlooked.

Whether your scribbled handwriting resembles hieroglyphics, whether you have hurled or been smacked with free flowing thoughts, embrace this duty. We are all obligated to sustain an environment where we think before we speak. This I believe.