Finding my voice sometimes means speaking up for someone else, even when I don’t know what to say.
I am a talker. I always have been. I process my own thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others, out loud. It helps me to understand the world around me. But this processing sometimes causes me to say things that are really dumb. I often say things I don’t mean because a new and different idea has been presented and I am wrestling with all the possibilities. Many times, my words have offended others or pushed them away. I have dealt with so many negative attacks to my words, it has given me a spirit of fear and timidity when it comes to standing up for what is right, or standing up for what I believe. When I do speak, I want my words to be thoughtful and understood.
In recent years I have come to find it easier to use my voice when I am in a safe place. When I know those around me will offer grace and mercy when I say the wrong thing, when those with me know my heart, and know that wrestling with the hard verbally, I feel much more at ease to say the ridiculous things.
The hardest part of finding my voice is knowing that the group of people who know me and offer grace is small. And words, they are big! I think of the cute little saying I grew up with, “Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is so far from the truth! I have hurt people with my words. I have said things that have been misunderstood or heard out of context and it has caused such strife and anger for others. When these situations have been brought to my attention, I have been deeply hurt by my own words and by the judgment that came from the misconception that I was laying down my immovable beliefs rather than just processing a thought.
I have a lot of apprehension about finding my voice and being misunderstood.
That is why I stay quiet.
Truth, in the context of our world, seems to be ever changing. As a Christian, I know what matters are the eternal truths laid out by our amazing Creator. But in our living reality, culture changes and our temporary life creates truths within our homes, within our communities, within our perspectives that don’t always translate further outside of ourselves.
A popular term in recent years is “fake news.” This is when someone shares their opinion as truth and it does not universally apply. As we are experiencing this covid-19 pandemic, the truth has been different depending on where you live. I am from Oklahoma. The county I live in has had no more than twenty cases at a time. My entire state has had fewer than 350 deaths (as of June 1) out of the four million residents. That is my truth. To put it in perspective, my town’s population density is about 1,925 people per square mile. The population density in Manhattan is 71,000 people per square mile. The truth of this pandemic, and of so many other major issues in our country and in our world, is difficult to translate outside of the big cities. Experiences are different, life is different. Our truths, our perspectives, are different.
As I reconcile all of this with my truth, my thoughts, my words, and am told I need to speak up and speak out against injustices I have neither seen, nor experienced, I am at a loss. I know these things are happening. I see the truth of our world’s injustices. I see the need to speak out. I see so many hurting and grieving and fighting back. I hear so many voices.
I just don’t know what to say or to whom to say it.
That is why I stay quiet.
I need more voices that live these injustices to speak out. I need more voices that have lived this life to speak out. I need to hear other’s truths, other’s perspectives. And right now, in all this chaos, I need to listen. I need to act. I need to love. This is why I want to stay quiet. But I need to process.
That is why I can’t just stay quiet.
So, I need help with my words, help to know where my words need to go. I need the help of others to overcome the fear of my words and help to turn them into useful encouragement in the face of our enemy.
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash