“Everyone has a voice. Our voice is conveyed through our words, sign language, body language, the choice of silence, through creative content, (dance, sculpting, painting, writing, gardening) and our actions. Perhaps even just thinking a thought communicates telepathically or energetically. So speaking takes many forms. Sometimes we are discerning and deliver our thoughts and feelings consciously. Sometimes we blurt out impulsively, unconsciously, and may come to regret it, for its impact on others and ultimately on ourselves.
If you don’t know the important little book The Four Agreementsby the Native Elder Don Miguel Ruiz, I highly recommend this as a book for your “Backpack.” The First Agreement is “Be Impeccable with your word.” He describes the word impeccable as in not sinning against yourself or others…
…In order to not sin against yourself you have to know your Truth. You have to be able to dig in and not just look at your reactivity to a situation. You have to examine all the feelings that have surfaced, and take the time to be curious and discover where that reactivity came from, its roots and foundation. Something triggered your reaction that made it seem like your Truth. You have to be able to not deceive yourself first, in order to not deceive others when you share your Truth.”
–Beyond the Bookclub: We are the Books We Must Read by Ruthie Landis
During these divisive and troubled times, I have noticed how hard it is for me to know what to say in certain situations and even how to say it. I want to speak up, and feel it is important to do so, to stand in what I value. And I notice that if I speak my point of view to people who see things differently than I do, what I have to say falls on deaf ears and may even create a rift between us. Plus, it’s exhausting and unsatisfying. If I speak the very same point of view to those that do see things the way I do, it is like preaching to the choir, and even escalates my emotions on the topic, though it also feels validating. I try hard to listen and be receptive to other viewpoints, AND I want to speak as well and be heard too.
Why? What is this human impulse, the need to be heard? I continue to grapple with this and really don’t have the answers. I do know the answers lie within, if I am willing to really look.
And yet…I was speaking with a dear friend, Spencer, and we were sharing our struggles around appropriate and effective voicing. He shared that he tries to speak about hard topics inclusively, using the word WE. I really liked that. It seems like such a good bridge. WE are all part of humanity, after all.
Then, while we were talking, I remembered a passage from Acting Lessons for Living where I write about intention. Pause before entering a place and get in touch with your true intention, what you really want before crossing any threshold. That would include entering a conversation, wouldn’t it?
We entered difficult conversations acknowledging their difficulty and the double bind we find ourselves in?
We stated our intention in engaging around this issue honestly, impeccably? Like — I want to share my values with you because the alternative is so painful to me. I DO want to change your way of thinking, not just because I think I am right, but because I am afraid and very sad.
We could ask the other person, why do you REALLY want to discuss this with me?
I wonder what would happen?
Would we laugh because of our awkward and unfamiliar transparency? Would we feel each other’s hearts because we were getting to the underbelly instead of the fruitless heady arguments?
It would take courage to “out” our agenda, and in that brave honest moment, could things shift? It’s an interesting experiment. And it requires us to be, first and foremost, very transparent with ourselves. We can only speak our truth to the degree that we know it.
It seems the primary conversations then, are ones we must have with our self.
By the way, my friend Spencer shared that what he wants, more than anything else, is to arrive at love. I can imagine him sharing that before any difficult conversation begins. He is that kind of man.
I reached out to a wonderful, wise woman I know and asked her if she would be my “race coach.” I made up that term. I want to explore my own subtle and unseen racism deeply. So much has been arising for me since we began and so much ignorance on my part revealed to me. I have so much to learn. I am seeing the unseen in myself and it’s not always pretty. How can I speak about racism authentically if I haven’t done my own work? The conversations I need to be having are with myself and they are difficult ones. I am so grateful I have found someone to coach me through this work.
I would love to hear your position on your own speaking out and how you navigate it. I would love to hear your voice, as you have just given space for mine. Please reply for all to see. We are listening.