Lacking a vocal filter is the new rage; people see it as a sign of authenticity and associate speaking absolutely everything on one’s mind with anything from honesty to integrity to, as we saw in the 2016 election, qualification for the U.S. presidency.
I’ve seen enough finsta posts and viral tweets to know just how many of us want to be surrounded by brutally honest people.
We want friends who will question our choices if our makeup is a little bold. We seek friends who will yell at us for our stupid choices. We yearn for friends who are nothing but real, friends who don’t see it necessary to sugar-coat their sour words.
Although I’m not nearly as brash as many of my peers, my brain-to-mouth thought process is close to zero. I’d like to think this is in part because I value honesty.
I enjoy spending time listening to outspoken individuals. I like hearing people’s raw, candid truths. I watch biopics as much as I can because of how much I adore seeing people’s intriguing life stories brought to the big screen.
Other people’s truths aren’t just important to me; they’re some of the most fascinating things I can think of. Blocking things out because they might be risky just isn’t something I agree with.
All of that said, I think somewhere along the way, I confused a refusal to censor oneself with a refusal to filter one’s words.
I am not exactly sure at what point in my life I decided to forgo using my brain properly. Maybe it was in sixth grade, when I wanted to seem funny and make friends at my new school. Maybe it occurred in eighth grade, when stress from National History Day turned my face into a permanent scowl. Maybe freshman year put my filter six feet under at a time when I used dark humor to cope with my devastating anxiety.
Maybe it doesn’t really matter: regardless of whichever year took my ability to use the cognitive powers bestowed upon me by centuries of evolution, I swear to start thinking again.
I’m at least intelligent enough to dress myself, yet I unintentionally make myself look completely idiotic on a minute-by-minute basis. In eighth grade, I complained about period cramps a little too loudly in front of my male history teacher.
I have, completely jokingly yet quite rudely, insulted friends in front of a teacher countless times. I drop enough F-bombs in biology to blow up the room.
Though embarrassing at first, lacking a filter leads to a plethora of admittedly humorous memories later in life.
I might not hate how openly I speak my mind if small laughs were the only consequences. But, nothing is that simple. The repercussions run much deeper.
The repercussions run much deeper.
One time, I accidentally revealed a friend’s crush in front of an entire group of people. Another time, I let my sharp tongue temporarily end three friendships in the span of barely one month.
I think I may never forgive myself for laughing at an eating disorder joke a friend made toward someone else back in eighth grade, not knowing that was how I would find out my best friend suffered from anorexia. I didn’t make the joke, yet my own lack of a filter made it difficult to see when someone else crossed a line.
I have no idea how these words I so carelessly blurted out affected those they were directed to. Not because I didn’t regret them the nanosecond they came out of my mouth; I almost always do. Not because I didn’t apologize from the bottom of my heart, because the number of texts I’ve sent asking friends for forgiveness is insane. Not because they chose to forgive instead of dwell, which, somehow, most everyone I’ve impulsively misspoken to has.
Because once I’ve said something, there’s no taking it back. Even at moments where I wish and I pray and I plead with anything out there, anyone listening, to just rewind those five stupid seconds. Even if I truly, honestly, sincerely didn’t mean to say that horrendous thing that jumped out of my mouth and landed in everyone’s ears. Even if I apologize and cry in the middle of Target and get them Gardetto’s the next day with a pink sticky-note reading, “I’m sorry!” on it. Once those words are out, there’s no putting them back in. I can’t sweep them into a dustpan and toss them aimlessly into the trash, discarding them without a memory of their existence.
If for no other reason, filtering my words would help my own well-being. I have enough on my plate as it is without carrying the guilt of things I could’ve avoided with a literal second more of thought. My friends are some of the best people I know; I hate how much I hurt them, and I hate even more that I do it so easily.
While people do over-glorify the idea of not having a filter, I recognize being outspoken helps me in some ways. I would consider myself a decent communicator. I collaborate well because I can bounce ideas off other ideas and solve problems. When I speak the appropriate things on my mind, things usually work out well. I take things seriously, sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with being unapologetically me, but I often inadvertently choose eliciting a laugh from my peers over staying out of trouble.
I don’t want to put weight on my shoulders, not without good reason.
Words take mere seconds to put in the atmosphere, yet have the dangerous capacity to cling to someone forever. Filtering them isn’t dishonest. It’s caring. It’s sensible. It’s the most responsible thing one can do.