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Would you speak up? Are you that strong?

By Carol / January 16, 2018 / 16 Comments

The senators who met with President Trump when he used “tough” language by his own account, racist language according to others, faced a character challenge. Speak up or not?

The courage to speak.

Speaking truth to power is no small thing. As we all know, there may be serious consequences. Careers ruined. Reputations destroyed. Social connections broken. Family relationships damaged. Challenge a man like Turmp? Beware.

I’d like to think if faced with hateful, racist comments, I’d do the right thing and call the speaker out. But to be honest, I can’t be uncertain. In other posts I’ve questioned whether I have that much courage.

My reticence has deep roots. In our family, we didn’t challenge our parents’ authority. We didn’t challenge the church. As a girl, I learned to keep peace, not make waves. Those skills served me well as a public relations counselor, particularly when coupled with my natural tendency to observe and think more than talk. I’ve spent most of my life holding back my personal opinions.

As each situation comes up, I debate whether to engage. Most of the time, I convince myself not to. Even when the #MeToo wave swept the country, I shared my own experiences only with my friends.

I’ve always had lots of reasons (excuses) for remaining silent. I don’t know all the facts. I don’t want to offend a client/friend/neighbor. I would look foolish. It’s not really about me. Oh, I could go on.

But, this past week’s events were a tipping point. The outcry brought Martin Niemöller’s often quoted comments to mind:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The risks of speaking are real. But when we fail to speak, we enable bad behavior. When we fail to speak out, we become complicit.

The events of this time are forcing me out of my shell. I know the kind of country I believe we are. A country that welcomes immigrants. A country that cares for ALL its people. A country with leaders and citizens who show respect to each other and to the citizens of the world. Those are things worth fighting for.

In the past 18 months, I’ve joined marches, written blog posts, contacted my State and Federal representatives. Repeatedly. I’m following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before, learning from them, modeling them, drawing courage and strength from them. It’s time for me to speak up.

 

When have you spoken out? Was it easy or hard? What challenges did you face in speaking up?

 

Carol

16 Comments

  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 17, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Good for you, Carol! I’m like you, diplomatic, keep the peace at all costs, etc. Early in our marriage that had to change. When I spoke up for myself instead of retreating into my shell things got better all around. I still struggle with it though.

    • Carol on January 17, 2018 at 10:21 am

      A workshop I took part in many years ago used a technique called the Johari Window to assess how openly I shared and received information from those I work with. The feedback was that I was an effective communicator with those who reported to me, but not with my superiors. I took that to heart and began to be more open with my bosses. What I learned was that I could share my thoughts, and I didn’t die. Unfortunately, while I applied the workshop learning to my work life, I didn’t transfer that to my personal life. I was well into my second marriage before I internalized this important learning there. Like you, our relationship improved all around. Like you, I find I still struggle with this. Good for you for figuring it out early.

  2. Merril Smith on January 17, 2018 at 9:07 am

    I agree with this, Carol. And good for you!
    I am shy, and it is difficult for me to speak out. I get tongue-tied and nervous on the phone, and I am not good speaking in crowds.
    I hope I can do the right thing.

    It is important for “ordinary citizens” to speak out, but at the same time, it makes me angry that so many politicians will not speak out–and some who are flat out lying. They are elected to serve the people and to speak out, and that should–I know it’s an ideal– but it should trump Trump and everything else. I am almost more angry about those who have enabled him than I am with dt himself.

    • Carol on January 17, 2018 at 10:27 am

      I share your anger at our elected representatives who are unwilling to stand up to the President. One of my senators repeatedly responds to my questions from the position that he can’t control the White House, his job in Congress is to be a check on the President. On the one hand, he’s right. On the other hand, this feels very much like a cop out. I expect more. Part of my ‘speak up’ effort has been and will be to let him know that.

  3. Paulette Mahurin on January 17, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Bravo to you! Right on!

    • Carol on January 17, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Thanks, Paulette. A journey in clarifying what I think and then having the courage to speak it.

  4. Lee Fullbright on January 17, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    I know several people who feel this way. I shared this on FB. What your wrote needed to be said (and circulated). Well done!

    • Carol on January 17, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      The good thing about the last election is it got many of us up off the couch and out of our apathy. Hopefully we will not slide back. Thanks for sharing the post, Lee.

  5. Joan Z. Rough on January 17, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I believe it’s time for all of us to speak up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and courage.

    • Carol on January 17, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Time to speak up and to find a way to do it civilly. Such a challenge in this environment. Best to you, Joan, as you reclaim your creativity.

  6. Billie Wade on January 17, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Congratulations, Carol. Speaking up is a difficult area for me. Growing up speaking up and speaking out garnered swift and severe punishment from my father as well as from my church and school. By the time I entered the workforce, authority figures had unnerved me into silence. When I spoke out in my relationships, they got worse. I’m in a season in my life in which I believe it’s time for me to speak up, but I have to practice. I’m not good at it. I frequently fall back on the excuse that I don’t have enough information. But, things continue to worsen. How much more information do I need? Thank you for this thought-provoking post. May all of us learn to speak out in ways that preserve dignity and respect for everyone involved.

    • Carol on January 18, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experiences so honestly, Billie. As young people, we cannot always be expected to voice our thoughts clearly and appropriately. Lucky are those who have adults who will help them learn more effective ways to speak and be encouraging in the process. I’m glad you’re finding your voice through writing.

  7. Janet Givens on January 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for this, Carol. It is so timely and right on target. We all have reasons for not speaking out. It’s time we took a long look at whether are more excuses than reasons.

    • Carol on January 24, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      I know I was caught by excuses in many cases. Though I will say it’s easier now that I work for myself.

  8. Tracy Karner Rittmueller on February 2, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    I’m delving deep into this subject myself right now — reading Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry (1949) which is about the power of writing (poetry in her book, but in my opinion a well-told story works like poetry) to bless readers/hearers with a gift, with a form of love, which is what “speaking up” is really all about, isn’t it? To speak against hatred and for love.

    I have and have not been one who speaks up. When I have spoken up, I’ve suffered (sometimes because I spoke up unwisely or at the wrong time/place; sometimes because people who expose bad behavior become targets) and those pains have created fear.

    My struggle (my “work”) right now is focused on learning the power of words, which is why I’m puzzling through Rukeyser’s difficult book, and why I’m taking another look at the work of Nobel Laureate Heinrich Böll who said “Words kill; words heal ((Worte töten; Worte heilen.). I intend to speak/write my emotional truth; I hope to do it in a way that brings healing, not death.

    • Carol on February 2, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      You’re taking a thoughtful approach to a complex topic, Tracy. I’m not familiar with Rukeyser’s book, but it sounds interesting. Would that we all could speak our truth and bring healing. An admirable goal.

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