Numerous times in our lifetime—no, in a single day—we’re faced with a dilemma: Do I open my mouth or keep it zipped? Do I take the risk or play it safe?
It’s not easy being verbally courageous. I fail at it more times than I succeed. But when I do succeed, it leaves me feeling a bit giddy. I think it’s because the freedom to express one’s thoughts has an elevating effect.
I’m reminded of this quote by George Orwell:
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
It’s taken me a long time to realize that it’s not a bad thing to tell people what they don’t want to hear. It may even be a good thing—not only for ourselves but also for the other person.
For example, when we put up with ill treatment by remaining quiet, we silently side with the least noble aspect of that person. We don’t help them grow. In fact, we rob them of the opportunity to do some healthy soul-searching.
In his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes: “When you adapt to the world, you don’t better it.”
As for the personal price for remaining tight-lipped, I recall counseling Nicole, who had a co-worker who repeatedly demeaned her in front of others. “I’d rather have a root canal than be around that woman!” Nicole exclaimed. “I swear, she must sit up nights sharpening her nastiness skills!”
When I asked Nicole how she typically responds to this treatment, she said she keeps it to herself. “I don’t want to cause any problems.”
“How about those problems you carry around inside?” I asked. “Don’t they count?” I was referring to the array of dark distresses that ferment deep within, robbing her of contentment—call it indigestion of the soul.
Bottom line: Asserting ourselves when honesty needs to happen benefits all parties.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.