You listened to the jokes.
You heard the comments.
You cringed, wishing someone would say something.
So did I.
I hated confrontation. I avoided it at all cost. It made my stomach churn to think about confronting an uncomfortable situation. That’s not to say I didn’t have convictions. I did; but no one knew what they were. I kept them close to my chest. “What’s the point in speaking up when everyone is more opinionated and knowledgeable?” I thought. “No one ever changed someone else’s mind by arguing them into submission.” So I stayed quiet.
Those who know me now, must find it laughable that I would ever have a problem sharing my opinion. I’ve found my voice and if I have something to say, I’m not afraid to share it in a respectful way.
So when did things change?
I remember exactly when. My teenage son and I were having a conversation about current events. At one point in the conversation he looked at me and said, “You don’t have any opinions or stand for anything.” I was taken aback. He wasn’t being disrespectful, not at all. He was simply stating things as he saw them. “Actually, I have a lot of opinions & convictions,” I replied. “But, what good is arguing about them going to do?” I hated confrontation so much, I had confused conversations with arguments and in doing so avoided both.
In that moment, I realized my silence had spoken volumes. By not saying anything, I was telling my kids social issues, politics & current events didn’t matter. I had become complacent. Talk about an eye-opening moment! I walked away from the conversation a different person.
From then on, I found it harder to stay quiet when I heard the jokes & comments. Since I’d been silent for so long, my opinions caught many by surprise. At first, I was told I was being too serious. “Stop being so uptight,” they would say. “It’s only a joke.” I prayed for courage as I stated why it wasn’t funny and needed to stop. Over time, I noticed a change in those around me. The words became less frequent and tolerance emerged…and with it compassion & empathy. Come to find out, it didn’t take an argument to have an impact. It took being the change I wanted to see in others.
“Listen while the storm in your heart rages. Listen”
“Don’t you hold your tongue. Speak now. Speak now.”
Those lyrics from Speak Now, get me Every. Single. Time. Speak Now is the original song from the One Night In Maimi movie soundtrack. It’s a powerful reminder that we can not stay silent.
We all have a circle of influence – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. The work of changing our nation doesn’t start in Washington, although we like to think it does. The work of bridging the gap, birthing compassion and extending empathy starts with you & me. It starts when we choose to speak up…and speak now.