Learning to speak up....


Two encounters in the past week have led me to a stark conclusion:
It doesn't always pay off to smile and be nice and agreeable.

There are times in life when we have to speak up.
There are times when hurtful words are spoken, and they need to be opposed.
However, speaking up doesn't come all that naturally to me. And neither does opposition.
So in both encounters this past week, I found myself smiling on the outside and burning on the inside....burning with words that needed a voice. But the words didn't find a voice in me on either occasion. I sat. I listened. And now, I'm sick to my stomach.

You see - like many people, I generally prefer being liked. I love bringing a word of peace in the midst of conflict. I prefer calm over chaos. I do not like to instigate drama. I was a conflict manager in 6th grade, and it was a role I relished in.

In truth, there have been many times in my life when I was totally ignorant and I needed correcting. I had a great Indian friend and he talked to me once during a long shift at the library about white privilege. He told me that white people often don't see the realities of what it's like to be a person of color. He was so right. I was living in a bubble. I was afraid to really "see." It hurt to have that conversation, and I still feel the hurt in my chest when I think about it. But it was one of the best and most influential conversations of my life. In my first year of seminary, I naively thought I could write a few prayers about "diversity" and "God loving people of every color" and it was enough. I was wrong. I needed correcting.

And I remember so clearly the first time I had dinner with a gay couple. I was 20. I was clueless. That night changed my worldview. We ate Chinese food in Chicago that night, and my heart was reshaped. I was ignorant, and I needed correcting.

So now, when I hear well-intentioned (maybe) people saying totally ignorant things about race, culture, sexuality, and gender, what do I do? I'm sick of listening and smiling all the time. If my friends hadn't taken the time to awaken me, talk to me, and tell me where I was living with my head in the sand - I'd still be clueless. I praise God for those friends oh-so-often.

How about you? When do you speak up? When do you smile and nod and listen? How do you awaken the prophet within?

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