“Don’t be afraid to speak, be afraid what will happen to the whole truth if you don’t”
(Joan Chittister, in On Women edited by Sanchez-Small, Leathley, Kownacki, 2020).
Have you ever wondered if you should say something about what you’re thinking, how you’re reacting to an event, a process, a policy, or feeling uncomfortable or upset about something someone said or the way an organization manages people and processes? Perhaps you considered potential consequences if you said something? If related to a work situation, you likely spent some time ruminating about how speaking up could be detrimental, a ‘CLM’ (Career Limiting Move) even. If related to someone you care about, you likely wondered how it might affect the relationship.
I have been in this position many times as an academic woman in leadership, as a Catholic Christian feminist, and as an advocate for Indigenous ways of knowing in education. When I entered my fifth decade however, I started to realize that I was becoming less afraid! I have more confidence now, I know who I am and I embrace my values and worldview openly. I worry less about what others think and more about my integrity and what contributes to the common good.
So why am I not more comfortable saying what I think more often? Like many women, I believe I’m not yet entirely free to do so. I have experienced the deep pain of being sidelined for my views and stances. Relationships have been altered and some severed. I certainly resonate with another statement of Joan Chittister: “To be what you are, to say what you think, to do what you need to do to be your most developed self means to risk rejection” (p.35).
As a result, I’ve discerned a different path, one that I believe to be more prudent and, dare I say, wise. I’ve come to the realization that working for change from within is better than alienating people and organizations I respect and care about. I’m learning to ask more questions to prompt reflection and dialogue. I’m learning to embrace diversity. I’m erring on the side of mercy over justice; judging less and loving more. Living in this tension is not always easy and sometimes I’m not sure I’m not selling myself short, but I trust my efforts are making a contribution to the common good and this is right for now.