Choosing to Use My Voice

Tu es tres timide, I was told yet again. Have you thought about taking acting classes? Learning French made me awkward, vulnerable in my ignorance, and timid in starting conversations. I retreated and sounded like a toddler rather than an intelligent adult. In many ways, losing my voice while trying to speak French made me insecure about my voice in other areas.

frogs-1274769_960_720It took some time, but I learned that I’m not defined by my foreign language skills. I do have thoughts and a voice and can contribute intelligently to conversations.

I’m also learning when it’s best to contribute my own voice, when it’s best to amplify the voices of others, and when it’s best to just be quiet. Not because I agree or disagree, but because it’s just not the time or place.

We’re in yet another time as a country when voices need to be heard; when we need to stop and listen; and when we need to recognize our own place in the conversation. In these moments, I recognize that my place is more often than not to listen, not to speak. To really hear the experiences of others.

Often, this means seeking out articles from a different point of view. Ideally, this means being quiet and letting my real-life friends speak. Sometimes, this means using the “hide” function on Facebook, recognizing that it’s not the time or place for debate.

I don’t feel as helpless as I did a few years ago, when I realized the privilege in choosing to speak or not. But I’m also learning that speaking is a privilege and my hope is that I use my voice to help and advocate, not to simply add to the noise.

How do you choose to use your voice? Have you ever wished you had been bolder?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “speak.”

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Choosing to Speak

I’m not much of a Facebook debater. I tend to stick to “likes” and comments about things I know – how cute my friends’ kids are and which books I like. I’ve only ever gotten close to an altercation once: When a friend posted about solo parenting for the first time and wondered if she would shower or eat all weekend, I said something about self-care and that it’s ok if the baby cries while she showered. The comments that followed suggested I had told my friend to abandon her baby on a mountainside, exposed to the elements while she sipped champagne. Yikes! I’m definitely not cut out for the big-leagues of Facebook debate!

But, in my year of choice, I’m wondering how to engage on Facebook in a more thoughtful approach. In the aftermath of Ferguson and the Eric Garner non-indictments, along with the protests that continue, I have friends posting things like, All Lives Matter! Get over it! and articles about police support. While I agree that all lives matter and that the vast majority of law enforcement are committed to protecting communities, I also have strong opinions about systemic injustice and the fact that wearing a uniform does not automatically make one a hero.

In a world that does engage in social media debates and where it’s not always possible to go to coffee with someone to talk about things, I wonder how much good I do by sitting back and not engaging, by relying on my own life choices to speak louder than a well-crafted rebuttal, and when I need to pushback a bit and ask questions that bring light to other opinions. I’ve been following more bloggers of color and champions of injustice in the recent months and they say, we the privileged need to speak up. Without everyone’s voice, change doesn’t happen.

I wish there was a kind and gracious way of saying, A hero is made by actions, not by a chosen profession. And, until the majority (whether religious, educational, skin color, or economic level) recognize and work to reconcile the systemic injustices inflicted on the minority, we need consistent and continual reminders that minority lives do matter.

Until I gain the courage and the eloquence to pushback, I’ll keep posting my rebuttals on my own wall, hoping my friends read these articles, just as I read theirs. For now, my choice is to listen to others and promote their words. And, perhaps that is more powerful than any debate I can engage.

How do you interact on social media? Any tips for sharing opinions without opening debate?

Review: Speak by Nish Weiseth

Growing up, I wished for a better story. One of overcoming obstacles, rebellion, and redemption. Of course, I’d have to actually live all those uncomfortable moments, which is definitely not my follow-the-rules personality. Instead, I shied away from sharing my own story and tended to add just as a qualifier: I’m just a student; Just a teacher; Just a mom… I’ve already shared about the road trip that gave me courage to share my own story with more intention and thought. Being more courageous, even in the vulnerability of blogging, has made me think more about my story and its significance in the lives of others.

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Nish Weiseth is a champion of stories and storytelling. She believes that stories can move us from finger pointing to problem solving (p 40). In her first book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Weiseth gives many examples of how storytelling has changed her opinions about a person, a culture, or a preconceived notion.

Weiseth has strong ideals in the power of story. She has started a popular community of storytellers over at the collaborative blog, Deeper Story. She also links in the storytelling nature of Jesus, citing his interest in the stories of the marginalized (p 58).

Weiseth encourages her readers to be faithful to their stories, no matter how mundane.  She says,

“But I’m here to remind you of a fundamental truth: no matter how mundane, you’re already living a great story tha the world around you needs to hear.” (p 184)

She goes on to say that not everyone is called to build orphanages, cure disease, or save the world. But, everyone is called to be faithful to their own story. These are powerful words, and ones I think many of us need to hear. How are we living out our stories right now, in this moment?

My one criticism of Weiseth’s book is that, while she tells small stories of her own experiences, she doesn’t model overarching storytelling. I feel this book would have been much more powerful had she taken the plunge to be a bit more vulnerable with her own story. She gives us hints and tastes, but no resolutions. She also relies heavily on blog posts from a Deeper Story, citing them as example of how to tell good stories. Sometimes they support her chapters, other times they seem to be a stretch.

Overall, I’d recommend this book. I agree that when we are able to sit with others and are given room to tell our own stories and listen to those of others, divisions become smaller and the world becomes a bit more comprehensible.

Have you shared your story recently? If so, how has it empowered you? If not, what is holding you back?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Speak. To enter, leave a comment about how storytelling has changed your perception – of yourself or others. I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, August 8, 2014. (United States addresses only.)

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I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.