I just got out of the car, having heard a segment on NPR’s Morning Edition about their Story Corp project. One woman spoke about how she ended up telling a story in the booth that surprised even her, and it was about coming to terms with the fact her brother died of AIDS, and saying that out loud for the first time, and having someone in a card shop say “You don’t have to whisper it.” That moment of kindness by a stranger changed her life. Hearing about it brought tears to my eyes, and compelled me to write this post.
Silence is a powerful thing. It shuts us off from the world, it shuts us off from the truth, it shuts us off from honesty, it shuts us off from others and assistance with our problems. Silence is an off switch. A failure to engage or admit.
Voicing something- an opinion, a “secret”, a thing or problem you are confronting makes it so much less powerful and scary. Once something has a name, you can deal with it and cope- when it is nameless, it is frightening and mysterious. Naming makes something tangible; no name makes it invisible. It’s like the old saying that the opposite of Love is not hate- it is indifference. Hate involves action- indifference means no attention or engagement whatsoever.
In my podcast on learning and learning disabilities, I urge parents to get testing and to get a label or a name for what may be troubling their children and impeding their learning. So many parents fear their children being “labelled” but failing to place a name to the problem doesn’t make the problem go away- it just keeps it hidden and silent and causing problems beneath the surface, with no acknowledged cause, and nothing to treat or assess.
Just pretend, for a moment, that you suspect you might have a serious medical condition. You have two choices. One of which is to go to the doctor and find out for sure, by voicing your concern and symptoms, whether or not you do have an illness, and whether it can be treated. Or you can wait, see if you get better or worse, knowing that if things get worse, the treatment options available to you will diminish. If it’s something awful like cancer for example, the longer you wait, the less likely recovery will be an option, and the more drastic and unpleasant the treatments will be.
Clearly, not voicing your concerns, not talking about it, not seeking treatment, will all lead to serious and permanent consequences. Silence has won yet another victim.
Likewise, in politics, if you don’t vote, don’t speak up when you see wrongs, don’t try to help where you can, your silence is read as passivity and assent to whatever decision is made. This is why I vote in every trivial election; I write in candidates where there are none running- I do everything in my power to make my voice heard in small and large ways.
Don’t let silence win. Voice something- say it out loud- something you are afraid of, something you’ve thought but have been afraid to say out loud. Encourage your kids to speak their mind. Don’t let silence and fear prevent you from moving forward and being the best you can be.