Say what you need to say... ~ John Mayer
Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out... ~ Sara Bareilles
Say something... ~ A Great Big World
I'm going to offer a thought here and I want to acknowledge right up front that there is more than a little irony in blogging about this...but...I'm going to say it anyway.
I think we are losing the art of saying nothing. Being still. Listening without comment. Hearing perspectives that contradict our own and opting not to voice our dissent.
The number of ways in which we are able, in fact encouraged, to share our opinions these days is staggering. We can review products we have purchased. Restaurants at which we have dined. Hotels where we have rested our weary heads. Books we have read...the plumber who fixed our pipes...the carpet cleaner...our dog groomer... There is virtually no service, product or business which we cannot publicly shame or applaud should we so choose.
It's true...those reviews can be helpful when searching for the perfect landscape artist to clip, prune and shape your ordinary shrubbery into a menagerie of circus animals, but the commentary doesn't stop there.
We can comment on news events. Editorials. Articles. We can offer our opinion in response to someone else's Opinion Piece. And we can do all of this regardless of whether or not we actually have even a smidgen of expertise in the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly.
A few days ago, I read about a local news event that was in my mind nothing short of inspiring and heartwarming. I clicked on the link because I wanted to read more about it but in doing so left my vulnerable eyes open to the string of comments next to the piece. I tried not to look, believe me. I made it my own personal policy a long time ago not to read the comments section for any news story or article once I discovered it was the fastest way to send yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole into Crazyland. But the way these comments were positioned next to the news story, it was unavoidable that a few caught my eye. And sure enough, there they were.... The Opinionators. The people who simply must express their contrary viewpoint no matter how ridiculous or how much in opposition to the majority viewpoint.
I get it. I know there are those "trolls" who do this just for the fun of it. But the one that really grabbed me was the comment of a "girl" (I say "girl" because her name sounded like a girl and her profile pic looked like a young woman in her early 20's, but for all I know "she" could have been a 70 year old man from Iceland), who wrote something very negative and then said, "I don't care. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."
Oh, sweet mother of pearl.
Yes, Princess, you are. But I pray that someday you might learn there is a richness and a peace to be found in stepping back from your own perspective and deciding to hold it quietly. Perhaps even holding it loosely, staying open to the possibility that over time it might change. Life has a way of changing a lot of our "opinions" that we once thought unchangeable.
Recently, I had an opportunity to practice silence. I had every reason to want to have the last word. I felt I had been unjustly maligned and had been dragged into a messy situation against my will, and worst of all there were kids involved who should have never been put in that position. Many, many people would have thought me completely justified if I had taken to whatever megaphone was available to me to pronounce my innocence and trumpet the truth.
But when faced with the choice, everything in me told me to do and say nothing. I did not respond. I thanked the people who reached out to me and let them know that I appreciated their support but I said nothing more. And I felt complete peace about it.
It's the peace part that is shocking. I don't enjoy conflict so it isn't unusual for me to back away from it but generally I am left feeling unsettled and as though I should have been braver in standing up for myself.
Not this time.
This time the decision to let my silence be the last word felt like.... grace.
It was a way to let it end for myself and everyone else involved.
I was choosing peace.
And it was a lesson to me that perhaps I need to start looking for other opportunities to be quiet. How many other times would I be better off to listen more and pontificate less?
And then, just as I was pondering all of this, I read something that literally leaped off the page and grabbed me by the ears (okay, not literally....that would be super weird...but it was still so jaw droppingly awesome).
Being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly. That's why nobody likes to sit next to the kid in class who's right all the time. One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it.
~ Dallas WillardWow.
I do not deny for a minute that there are principles and people worth defending boldly and loudly. There is a time to SPEAK!
But let's give silence it's due.
And if I have my way, that silence will spread to every comment section on every news source on the Internet.
That would be so awesome.
(Cue LEGO movie 'Everything is Awesome' music).