Why can’t we just say it?
Why can’t we just say it?
What is it about our society that keeps most people believing that everyone thinks just like they do while, simultaneously, communicating to the minority that they are the only ones? And, will anything induce us to change our path?
In some parts of our world, this can work rather well, allowing norms of tolerance, racial acceptance and diversity to be modelled and unconsciously taught to all – while silencing hatred and redirecting prejudice.
In other contexts, such as troubled marriages or relationships, dysfunctional families, toxic work environments, racially-biased policing or abusive faith communities, the same desire to remain accepted by an in-group can often bring down a cone of silence lasting for years or even decades. And, in the quiet, the problems continue.
So, we read the room and immediately go into hiding – taking our wounded hearts, the truth we know about our world or ourselves, the facts about the violence in our marriages or the horror of what that “loving” uncle actually did behind closed doors along with us.
And, when that cone of silence comes down, it leaves those who are inflicting harm without any motivation to change and those experiencing that harm feeling like they are the only ones. It creates a sense that everyone else is doing well, my needs don’t matter, and my feelings likely only prove that I’m crazy.
That only reinforces the silence.
Today, all over North America, African American peoples are breaking that silence – loudly and in the streets of our nations insisting that it’s not ok for 1:1000 people of colour to be gunned down by the police in the United States. They are saying to the world that their hurt is real, and they are not going to remain in hiding, persecuted by the demons of their memories and plagued by vague fears that they are defective and crazy for feeling the pain and shame that they do.
Relatively, our silence and passivity about the 1:3 little girls and 1:6 little boys who experience sexual molestation and our silence about the 1:4 women and 1:7 men who experience intimate partner violence at the hands of someone they thought loved them is so much more frightening. It’s not a question of which is worse; exactly how does one scale rape against murder anyway? It’s a question of the pervasiveness of the underlying causes.
Our entire society loves to focus on bright shiny issues: Stopping police violence, ending sexual assault and eradicating intimate partner violence. Yet, that myopic focus on the horrific nature of the external symptoms often misses the real problem:
When we scan the room and bring down that cone of silence, we become the real problem. We become the blind subservience to authority; the passive unwillingness to demand politicians represent everyone and create a society good for more than just a handfull of billionaires. We embody the fear-based avoidance of standing out, the shame-based sense that there must be something wrong with those being hurt and the guilt-based belief that those suffering must be bad people, because bad things couldn’t ever happen to good people.
When we crusade in the streets without ever addressing how deeply we are committed to conformity, looking good to the majority and maintaining all of the rest of the status quo of inequality, avoidance of corporate responsibility, fear of the other-guys and the worship of power, nothing will ever change.
Because, the real problem is us.
We come by it honestly, of course. It’s our own hurt that drives us to try and fit in, join in and act our our rage or otherwise fix everyone and everything but ourselves. But, honest or not, the fallout is the same.
Fixing it starts with us – breaking silence within ourselves about ourselves. So we can see ourselves as we really are, instead of as our pain taught us to be. It’s what we help people do every day: Get their hearts back. Because, people who have their hearts back can be trusted to care for the hearts of others in an intelligent manner.
When we get our hearts back, that’s where we get our voices back, and can start making a real difference.