“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Although the attribution of this quote is in question – some attribute to Dr. Martin King and others have found it was an error in cutting and pasting from a Facebook post by Jessica Dovey – the reality is that the words ring true no matter who said them.
This was aptly demonstrated as the #MeToo campaign was joined by women around the world, finally able to talk about the harassment they had experienced. This was only one consequence of silence. Others have led to genocide, racism and war across the centuries.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
We each have experienced times in life where we stayed silent – because it was easier, more accommodating or when we felt threatened by others in power.
I think women are more likely to stay silent so as not to rock the boat (accommodating) or when they feel threatened by the person in power. When your job or career is on the line you may feel it’s better to allow someone to say things you wouldn’t normally allow, so you can be promoted or to keep your job, salary and a roof over your children’s heads.
Unfortunately, it’s in these circumstances we teach our children – who are carefully watching EVERYTHING we do – when to speak and when to stay silent. The tightrope you walk being a single mom, required to bring home the bacon – so to speak – and teach your children why it’s important to speak up for yourself and those unable to speak for themselves, is a challenge.
It has been helpful to have rules for my children, but I find those rules also help me. There have been times when my children have called me on my behavior or on a decision made because it doesn’t align with the rules we created to keep peace and harmony in our home. It is these rules I can rely on to help me make difficult decisions when speaking up has as many consequences as staying silent.
This has never been more evident in my life than recently. I have a friend who is struggling with her life decisions, her children and her future. She was once a single mom, raising three children on her own. After a season she met and married a very nice man and together they have made a home and merged their families.
But in the past her youngest daughter had experienced horrific abuse at the hands of her father. It was a couple of years before my friend could prove the abuse so she could permanently remove her daughter. Years of prayer, relying on friends, talking about abusive situations and opening up to strangers.
Today her daughter continues to experience the effects of those years of abuse, and her mother does as well. Silence in her small community, silence in her husband’s family and her silence for years only perpetuated the problems and ultimately the negative emotional effects.
My friend did what she could, at the time, with the resources she had – but she paid the price of the silence of her neighbors and his family, and will continue to pay a lifelong price.
When we don’t speak for ourselves or others, we are validating their ideas and behavior. This same friend has asked for advice several times and I have been brutally honest. I won’t do her any favors by agreeing or disagreeing to make her happy – and thankfully she understands that and desperately wants someone to speak the truth in love to her.
I believe with all my heart that is what our world needs – speaking the truth in love. We have watched what silently agreeing, being silent or participating has gotten us. Our country is suffering under the burden of a growing number of people who have no compassion or mercy for people who don’t look or act like them.
I recently joined a Christian discipleship group. The first thing that struck me was the safety within the group. The leader said it was a safe group, a safe place to express yourself and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t BELIEVE it. I had never been someplace where there wasn’t at least one person who was a bully, talked back, didn’t obey the rules or otherwise made of fun of everyone.
But not here. Here it’s safe.
Everyone is accepted and there is no silence. And silence is not needed since everyone is after the same thing – to experience His presence.
I have a situation at home now that requires I’m not silent. My oldest son needs a bit of direction, and doesn’t want it I’m sure. After all, at the age of 26, which one of us wanted to hear from our parents we might be making poor decisions?
While I won’t be silent, I also won’t be derisive or condemning. This is his life and he has the choice to live it in any way he chooses. But as his mother, I have the responsibility to point out the end of the journey he’s currently taking. I have the RESPONSIBILITY to NOT remain silent.
He has the choice.
I have the responsibility.
And once communicated – a time or two, but not more than three! – it’s his decision and his life. His consequences and my responsibility to allow him to live the consequences.
There are so many ways and places we may or may not remain silent – and consequences to staying silent that affect more than this generation. The time to pick your battles is when you have battles to pick – and not when they’ve all been chosen for you.
The time to speak up is when you have your voice before the world has stifled you.
The time to speak is when your children are watching so they also learn speaking up is important to retain their dignity, to help those who can’t help themselves and defend the ideas they hold dear.
The time to speak is NOW.
Root, Fake MLK Quote Goes Viral, https://www.theroot.com/fake-mlk-quote-goes-viral-1790863806