Updates and revisions (original blog June 7, 2020)
Keeping my mouth shut these days is harder than shoving a passel of hogs into a tiny hog pen . . . at feeding time. I’ve been around for quite some time and I’ve never experienced anything like what we’re seeing today. Division, unrest, widespread racism, anger, pandemics, extreme climate change, and the list goes on. Every generation speaks of times in their lives when major changes caused emotional disruption; however, I would argue that what is happening now, has to be up there in the top five.
Regardless of the rank and strength of the impact, these are challenging times. If you have a heart and an opinion, you are feeling it with an intensity that can cause quite the verbal eruption. Some would say that speaking your truth is healthy and necessary and others regard it as dangerous. People in both camps exist in my world. I have been notoriously vocal my entire life, except when I’m quiet. So why the contradiction?
What it Feels Like
When I have something to say, it sometimes feels like fire in my belly and a vice squeezing my skull. It’s not pleasant and there are very few ways to release the pressure.
Having opinions is a good thing. Speaking your mind is a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. It allows others to get to know you better. It’s also a way to remain free, free of thoughts weighing you down. Keeping it all bottled up can destroy your already compromised organs. On the other hand, when you unload something that has been weighing you down, it can end up making the receiver feel burdened by the information.
The conversation I have with myself about whether or not to speak-up is getting easier as I mature. There was a time when remaining quiet was not even an option; today, I employ this method of self-preservation (silence), more often than not.
The price that I pay when I’m silent is distance from whomever I decided to stay silent with. Unless it’s a stranger and then there is little or no consequence. I have a neighbor who is inconsiderate and clueless. In the past I would have found a way to share my discontent. Instead, these days I say nothing except hello when I see her. I know that nothing I say will change who she is. Telling her what I think would only make matters worse and cause further problems. But. . . if I ever sell my apartment, this woman is going to hear from me.
The Process of Deciding When to Share
I wrote a blog on Racism last year. I know it angered some of the people in my life who strongly disagreed. In the blog I called myself a passive racist; I believe it to be true. I’m ashamed of the number of times I have stood by and listened to people disparage black or brown people and said nothing. At the time I disagreed with what they were saying, but I didn’t want to rock the boat or cause a scene. I was dead wrong. I cannot turn back the clock, however, I can behave differently and call people out when I see and hear racial bias.
Sharing my political point of view has been difficult because of the current climate. These days it’s difficult to have a civilized conversation about politics. I’ve been told I have no right to share my opinion because I no longer live in the States or that the only reason I’m a left leaning liberal is because I’m gay — both ridiculous opinions.
What to Share
Carefully consider what to share with others and when to share it. The last thing I want is for people to say, “There he goes again, mouthing off about something.” That can happen easily if you’re not careful.
Lately, I wait until I’m truly passionate about something before I put it out there. This seems to be more effective. The response I get on social media can be very telling and I’ve been paying attention. People are tired of politics. Those that feel very strongly, on either side, are not giving up, nor should they. I’m certainly not giving up. What I am doing is being more deliberate about when and how I state my opinion.
There are many people out there who do not want to hear it. They are in denial about the existence of problems in and with society. To those people I say, ignore me. You you don’t want to hear it, telling me or anyone else to shut up is not going to be effective. If you want to bury your head in the sand, then refrain from coming to the surface.
Some of us feel, me included, that in order for positive change to happen, we must have the conversation.
Reactions and Responses
When you share in a public forum, you must be prepared for backlash. For me, having people agree with me is not necessarily what I want. I enjoy a good debate or argument. Tell me why you feel or think the way you do and back it up with facts, I promise to do the same. I have admitted to being wrong on more than one occasion and I have also been known to change my point of view. In addition to learning something in the process, a good argument can be a lot of fun; stimulating and enlightening. So why are so many adverse to partaking in a good debate? These days it seems that some would prefer to walk away from a relationship, rather than engage in a discussion. I think that’s sad.
Losing Friends & Family
Losing people in your life may be the most difficult outcome of being honest about your thoughts and feelings. Before you speak or write or video what’s on your mind, you should consider the toll it may take. Are you willing to alienate people in your life that have meant something to you for a long time?
I recently had this situation tested in my personal life. My politics have pissed people off for a long time; however, because of where the world is politically today, people are more wedded to their point of view than ever before. It’s unwise and wrong for me to fault anyone for their beliefs, whether I think those beliefs are based on truth or not. My choice is to find middle ground and in the process, save the relationship.
I have learned that that staying silent is sometimes impossible. Repressed thoughts or feelings eventually surface; when they do, the longer I allowed them to fester, the more toxic and harder they are to rein in.
The bottom line is comfort. For me, if I’m not strong in my convictions and resolute about where I stand, I cannot speak out. There are moments when I feel that my time is better spent working on my own self-worth; exercising my ego and feeding my brain. I have to be certain I know what I am talking about before I spout off. I have to fact check myself and do my homework. Then and only then, can I speak my mind.This is the way for me to defend myself, debate and walk away with pride. Self-empowerment is mighty strong and an effective tool for healthy living.
The pandemic has helped me to be more deliberate about my actions. Forced time alone is not a bad thing. What I do with my time these days is making me happier and more fulfilled. I don’t want to end up alone; unless I filter, that’s exactly what will happen. In truth, I believe the more time you spend on reflection and self-improvement, the more people will want to be in your company.