Protect Our Voices
Children are to be seen, and not heard.
Speak only when you are spoken to.
Do as I say, not as I do.
My mother, she had some real dandies up her sleeve. My siblings and I chafed at her rules, but in the end, we learned to follow them. In fact, I’m breaking a childhood rule right now. Speaking negatively about my family was ‘bad’ and ‘wrong.’ You might even get punished for it.
Come to find out, my childhood was pretty normal. Once I became an adult, I realized I wasn’t alone. I looked around and found thousands of others like me, trapped in the patterns of our suppressed youth. Young children are completely dependent on the care of their parents. Until a certain age, they will do anything to please us – be quiet, sit down, quit asking questions, be polite and stop crying. It doesn’t take long before the damage is done.
Consequently, speaking your mind as an adult is tough when you’re encouraged, maybe even forced for eighteen years to keep your opinions to yourself. It just becomes second nature after that. It’s no wonder so many people have a hard time expressing their thoughts and opinions. We’re afraid to use our most important god-given form of empowerment, our Voice.
The reason so few of us are comfortable speaking up is because we weren’t encouraged as children to develop our voices for good.
The lack of honest, courageous voices has become a liability in the American sociopolitical scene. It’s time we learned how to use our voice to protect the rights of others to use theirs as well, especially those just now developing this magnificent and powerful tool.
We can begin by understanding that a lot of our fears, the ones we don’t talk about, are what remain of those childhood survival skills – following the rules. Most of our actions then and now are driven by the thoughts: what will happen to me if I don’t stay in line? What if I say the wrong thing? Maybe I shouldn’t make waves that people won’t like?
The majority of our secret adult fears are rooted in the most primal childhood fears of abandonment and rejection. Deep down, we still believe that our survival depends on being accepted and so we continue to operate the way we learned as children in our relationships with partners, bosses, our peers and parents – anyone who has the power to reject us. We say and do what we think is expected rather than ruffle any feathers by saying what needs to be said.
Growing up, so few of us were taught to use our voice effectively. But what if we were?
Recently, in America we’ve witnessed in the media children between the ages of ten and eighteen stepping up to the microphone at rallies across the country in defense of their own lives. They’re demanding safety from assault weapons being brought into their schools and killing their friends and teachers. Their requests seem not only valid, but necessary.
However, their voices are not well received by everyone. Opponents are questioning their right to speak on a public platform and be heard. They have been witnesses to warfare and are told their opinions don’t hold weight in the decision-making process we call law making. They are criticized and called puppets exploited in a game they don’t even understand.
But I think they do understand.
One survival skill has trumped another. Speak up, or risk being killed.
Over the years, we’ve silenced children for too long and produced generations of adults who don’t value their own opinions and ideas. As a nation we’ve accepted silence as a virtue, but it’s not. It’s a liability; one we can’t afford to continue.
It’s time we honor everyone’s right to be heard.
It’s time to stop silencing children because of their age. We need to listen with open minds. Just because we’re older and have lived longer doesn’t mean we know better about what they need. That would be like saying we’ve made no mistakes, and we have. Everyone has a right to be heard.
It’s time we made an effort to teach children to use their voices wisely and effectively. But it seems that first we must teach ourselves, because when we don’t value our own voice, we can never really value others, nor are we able to promote honest public discourse…hearing both sides, weighing options, making decisions.
This issue isn’t just a public one, our fears about speaking up spill over into our personal lives, in our relationships with partners, friends and family, among our peers, and especially in the workplace. It’s time to recognize our fears and find the courage to overcome them so we can speak up when we feel called upon.
We need the voices of people who aren’t afraid of being rejected should they speak up in favor of a cause.
Voices that are willing to ask clearly for what is needed.
Voices who will call for justice and fairness and freedom.
More than ever, we need the voice of our people.