My heart was pounding, hands sweating, and the voice in my head was on repeat; “say something”. I knew, in my gut, that this was the right thing to do, but my ego was screaming; “warning, warning, you haven’t prepared to speak up.” I took a breath and joined in the conversation, I voiced my opinion, and I stood up for myself as a woman. My words were as well received as a child who is standing two feet from their mother saying the word mommy twenty times in a row. However, I knew this was a beginning, one of many times that I would need to find the courage to not stay silent.
Growing up in a religious household that held a firm belief that husbands have the final authority, standing my ground was not always welcomed or encouraged. Looking back, I have realized that when I did stand my ground, it was always done from a posture of defense. This posture made me feel afraid, unsure of myself, and it oftencaused me to second-guess my motives for standing up in the first place.
As I sat with a dear friend recently and we talked about, as women, that when we choose to stand our ground on a particular issue or just simply want our point to be received, we know that our statements have to be polished and thought out. We know that we must speak in a well-rounded manner, not stumble over our words, or get off topic. If we cannot do these things we might as well just not even speak up in the first place or come back at a later time when we are better prepared. For these reasons we have learned to pick and choose our battles. We assess situations on a daily basis, whether they will be worth the risk to share our thoughts and knowledge. One might think this sounds exhausting, it is.
I am wired with passion and justice, but combined with religious teachings and doubt I had found safety in compliance. I was raised in a religion were certainty was promised. I felt safe amongst these teachings that told me where I came from, how to behave, and what my future would hold. The God I followed was “out there” and so I used my passion to make sure I was doing all I could to reach him.
Over the last decade my perspective has shifted greatly, the God I know dwells within each of us. I no longer seek a religious narrative, but a spiritual narrative that speaks to how our lives tell thousands of stories that demonstrate that humanity is intrinsically connected. These connections can be easily covered with hurt that turns into anger, anxiety that develops into isolation, and trauma that leaves lasting emotional scars.
I had found a sense of safety in compliance, but that safety was coming at a cost that I was not aware of. There was so much anger and fear when someone else’s way of thinking did not a line with the teachings I had been taught. Compliance only felt safe when everyone around me looked like me, talked like me, and worshiped God like me. I had taken my safety and buried the lines of human connection. I am relearning that human connection is full of possibilities and chances for everyone to evolve. I am learning that if you try to force connections to abide by a set of terms or expectations, the essence of connection is quickly lost. Connecting with one another does not mean we have a full grasp on our differences, it says I am here, I will stand with you, and I will no longer will be silent at your expense or mine.