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A couple of weeks ago, NCCS published an article titled Government Overreach: The Cause & Solution. Shortly after its release, a dialogue of comments ensued that had little to do with the article's content. This dialogue has prompted me to reflect on the language we use when expressing our views. It was evident that there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue being discussed, and sharp words were used to express definitive opinions.
First and foremost, I want to make it clear that NCCS appreciates comments and values differing perspectives. In writing this article, I, in no way, intend to discourage or demean anyone who wishes to comment on or provide constructive criticism of our work. The purpose of this article is to share principles I have learned, which can hopefully assist us, as liberty-minded individuals, in communicating more effectively.
In the book Speaking the Language of Liberty authored by Bill Norton and Mark Herr and published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS), Bill and Mark discuss how the words we speak can either result in liberty or captivity for ourselves and others. In the book's introduction, Bill tells a story about a lady who attended one of the classes he taught for the Center for Self-Governance (CSG). During a segment of the class, they were discussing how our personalities tend to align with different types of government. He wrote:
“There was a woman in the class, we’ll call her Susan. Susan was a patriot through and through. She was wearing an American flag shirt and was taking notes with her stars and stripes pen.
"Throughout the class, every word Susan used sounded like freedom, America, and apple pie. After deep reflection and honest self-assessment, Susan jumped out of her seat and proclaimed, ‘I AM A TYRANT… I – AM – A – TYRANT.’ Suzan realized that behind all of her ‘freedom’ sounding words was contempt for those who did not want her flavor of freedom and she was willing to force it upon others at all costs.
"Susan was willing to become a tyrant in the name of freedom. She was unable to Speak the Language of Liberty because she did not love other’s liberty as much as her own."
I recently finished reading a book published by the Arbinger Institute titled Leadership and Self-Deception. I highly recommend it! The book tells a fictional story about a man named Tom, who was recently hired at Zagrum Company. After a month on the job, his boss, Bud, asked him to come in for an interview. The book unfolds the story of this interview and the secret to Zagrum's success. Bud explains to Tom how our inner mindset can drastically change our relationships with others and our effectiveness as leaders. The way we think about others can either confine us to a box or liberate us. Throughout the interview, Bud explains the things we do that place us in a box and what we need to do to get out. He told Tom:
“…no matter what we’re doing on the outside, people respond primarily to how we’re feeling about them on the inside.”
He acknowledged that sometimes hard things need to be said, but that:
“…it’s possible to deliver just that kind of hard message and still be out of the box when doing it. But it can be done out of the box only if the person you are delivering the message to is a person to you. That’s what it means to be out of the box.”
Relationships Build Freedom
We often think, myself included, that if we just use the right words, people will see our point of view and convert to our way of thinking. In my experience this never works as well as it looks on paper.
Bill and Mark continue:
“Freedom is among the strongest desires and pursuits among mankind. We long to be free. We are willing to die for it. We want so badly for others to be free that, ironically, we want to force it upon them. Even if they do not want it.
“The great human irony is our willingness to seek freedom so strongly that we confine ourselves and others in the name of freedom.”
The real secret to freedom lies in relationships. When we genuinely attempt to see others as people rather than objects and take the time to learn something about them, we start to break down the barrier of distrust. We begin to view others as people who share similar hopes and dreams, individuals whose lives and perspectives have been shaped oftentimes by challenging circumstances and experiences. We come to realize that the common emotion of fear can drive us to take actions we wouldn't normally consider. Furthermore, we come to understand that it is natural to resist logic when it is perceived as a threat or when the messenger is perceived as a threat. In other words, the axiom 'People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care' is rooted in the principle of freedom. We are more free when we build relationships of trust.
Compounding the struggle of building relationships is the pervasive influence of technology in our interconnected world. While screens facilitate communication across distances, they paradoxically have the potential to strain our interpersonal relationships. This can create challenges in maintaining open-minded perspectives. The digital realm often emboldens us to use harsher language than we would typically use in face-to-face interactions. In addition, deciphering the genuine intent behind a written message can prove challenging. Sometimes, a solitary line of text becomes the sole means of communication between two people, leaving an enduring impression. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we refrain from expressing sentiments that do not align with our true feelings for another person, for once the words are written, they are indelible. This underscores the significance of thoughtful contemplation before hitting the send button as a means of staying out of the box.
As we navigate the complexities of our interconnected world, where words and screens can both unite and divide, let’s try to remember that the way we see others, including those on the other end of the cursor, is vital in our fight for freedom. When we see them as people instead of objects, when we value their freedom as much as ours, we will build relationships where constructive dialog can happen.