Your Right to Speak Out

for the week of July 3, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

The Supreme Court ruled last week to keep intact by a 7-2 margin the "Miranda warning." Assuming you've not been arrested recently, you would know it best from its use in police shows on TV: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. . . ."

While we are outraged by the occasional instance of the felon who gets off on a technicality, I suspect most of us value the 1966 Miranda ruling that created this uniform protection against self-incrimination for American citizens. I have traveled in countries where people fear the police and know only too well how they can coerce "confessions" through physical and psychological intimidation.

But the Bible says there is both "a time to keep silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:7b). Here are some instances where you should speak this week.

Speak out to affirm and encourage others. Believe it or not, there have been a couple of recent worker surveys that say a majority of people would prefer a sincere compliment for their good work than a raise from the company. While I'm sure the praise-over-raise strategy would reach its limit eventually, I think the studies are right. Secretaries, students, bosses, mates, teachers all of us like to be noticed and appreciated for what we do. Sincere encouragement creates loyalty, sustains motivation, and generates better group outcomes.

Speak out when you must do so to be true to yourself. Bringing in the minority report or speaking up about something that bothers you might not make you the most popular person in the room at the moment, but you have been true to your beliefs. You needn't get what you want to feel good about your integrity.

Speak out when someone needs to be reminded of God's power. Maybe it is someone at work whose life is in turmoil because of a divorce or the death of a family member. Perhaps it is an elderly person who has outlived most of her peers. Or maybe it is a member of your family or church who is depressed. The easier thing is to look away and pretend you don't see. The right thing is to talk to him and remind him that he is not as alone as he feels. God cares. So do you.

I'm glad we have certain basic rights and protections as citizens of this great country. They are written into the statute books and protected by the courts. Sometimes we are quick to see and claim our rights, however, while overlooking the fundamental responsibilities that can make us truly noble and upright souls.

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