Monday, February 07, 2011

Getting Loud and Finding My Voice

“I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; 
and I dare a little more, as I grow older.” – Michel de Montaigne

I encountered the above passage in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s novel entitled Hold the Dream. The quote made quite an impact on me because I immediately understood where Montaigne was coming from.

See, I dislike getting in the middle of conflicts and, as much as possible; avoid doing anything to provoke anybody’s displeasure. I was a timid child growing up -- a silent sufferer who won’t speak out even when I felt I was already on the losing end. I also preferred keeping quiet during class recitations, fearing my answers might be wrong and that the teacher might scold me. Thus, I always tried hard to remain unnoticed so I won’t be required to stand up and speak.

I guess the training I got from Speech Dynamics workshops for two summers during fourth and fifth grade helped a little. Maybe reciting a poem during the closing programs boosted my confidence a bit. Still, when I entered high school and college, I was still the scaredy-cat who would rather sink low in her seat than catch the teachers’ eyes and be made to recite. It was kind of ironic that my chosen course was BS Development Communication and yet, I was content enough to usually let my thoughts and feelings out inside journals which contents, only I could read. I was not the all-around speaker and writer that most people expect communication students to be.

When I joined an artists’ group in my teens, I chose to be with the puppetry department. It worked fine for me because I was always behind a curtain during performances. However, things changed when we were tasked to hold workshops for two weeks one summer. Our leader assigned me to be lecturer while my other friends manipulated the puppets for demonstration. Once the initial stage fright was over, I found myself enjoying what I was doing. Slowly, I noticed that I was managing to overcome my reticent nature and found myself speaking out more as the years went by.

When I became a mom, I eventually discovered a fountain of words inside me just waiting to come out. Besides wielding pen and paper, I realized the importance of being inquisitive and of asking lots of questions from pediatricians, teachers and other parents. For instance, there were times when one of my kids would be hospitalized and I would see nurses acting knowledgeable but bungling their jobs. So, I would somehow muster the courage to let them know I heard what the doctor instructed which was directly opposite to what they were doing. Becoming a parent finally made me braver than who I originally thought I was.

At work and in other areas of my life, I now also make sure my opinions are heard, whether in speech or in writing, when I see injustices happen. I resolved to try and correct mistakes as much as possible for the greater good. I’m sure a lot of people have been in situations too where they wanted so much to speak out but choose to hold their tongues instead just to keep the peace and avoid appearing disagreeable. I agree that we should not seek out trouble. But I definitely believe that not all situations call for us to leave words unspoken.

Through the years, I kept learning how to discern what situations warrant silence and which require speaking up for myself and disadvantaged others for the things I believe are right and true. I no longer let the anger and resentment steam inside while culprits go on their merry way unaware of how I feel about their negative actions. I learned that there are moments I have to say, “No. I don’t accept that” or “You are being unfair.” I also don’t ignore the fact that there really are people in this world who would repeatedly try to step on you if you let them.

Now, I teach my children to voice out their thoughts when other kids, even adults, try to bully or take advantage of them. I encourage each one to be confident and stand up for the right to be heard. While they are still young, I want them to also learn that although conflicts can and should be avoided, there will be moments that would call for courage to express themselves so that others would not get used to thinking it’s okay to cause them emotional or physical pain.

My point is, as long as we’re aware deep in our hearts that we are on the side of the truth, we should not be afraid to let the words out. You’ll never know how much difference you’ll make in the lives of others who might find themselves in the same situation with the same abusive people someday.

I believe in the ripple effect and of taking responsibility seriously. Find your inner strength. Become confident to clarify things; speak out; and reprimand people who commit injustices in a firm and reasonable manner so that, perhaps, in a different time and place, others might also benefit from your deeds.

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