October 18, 2013

Getting Real : When to Step In and Speak Up

I feel really vulnerable posting on this subject, but it is honest and true and at some point, if I'm going to really get real, I have to get comfortable with being always honest.  And it's going to be long because it's been a tough week for me.  Really tough.  I've gone back through and tried to edit it down, but I have a lot to say that I feel is important to share.

I find it hard to speak up for kindness when it means speaking up against someone's actions.  Since we've lived in Utah, I have found myself not speaking up when my feelings are hurt by someone's words or actions because I don't want people to think Gee, that heathen girl sure is sensitive.  I'm almost never offended, but I'm often hurt.  So I've learned to push down my feelings and pretend that they aren't there, all for the sake of getting along.  I've trained my kids to do it too.  We have become a turn-the-other-cheek kind of family. I hear that's a good thing and it certainly does make life easier.

I try to stay calm and model thoughtfulness for the kids.  "What?  Your friends said that you're not going to be with God when  you die because you're not baptized into their church?  Wow.  I bet that hurt a little.  But if that's what they believe, isn't it kind that they want to share it with you because they love you and want you to get to be with God?"  How's that for making lemonade?  It kills me inside to think of my 7 year old being told he's not worthy, but it's unavoidable.  "She said your dress was immodest and ungodly because it doesn't have sleeves?  Well, she's been taught that shoulders should be kept private, and a high standard of modesty is a beautiful thing.  We have high standards of modesty, too, you know.  But let's make sure we live them rather than impose them so that we don't make anyone ever feel the way you feel right now.  Okay?"  And that's how we roll through life here. We do have amazing friends who are lovely and genuine and true to themselves while being true to the spirit of fellowship as well.  We are unbelievably grateful for them.  But their numbers pale in comparison to the numbers of people who have been hurtful.  Those friends are like a salve on a sorely wounded spirit.

As much as I believe that we should perpetually turn the other cheek, I also believe that we should defend the weak, the meek, and those who cannot defend themselves.  It's fundamental to my faith and my core values. It's what is right.  It is what we wish people would do for us, so we must do it for others.

With that in mind, I've taught my kids to walk away when someone is hurting them, or to tell an adult so that we can step in between them and the aggressor. But I've also taught them to step in between a mean kid and a gentle kid.  To say, "No.  You can't treat them that way while I'm here."   And they do.  Routinely I see them step in. If it persists, I see them physically step between a little kid on the playground and a bigger kid (sometimes even a sibling) who is being unkind, wrap their arm around them, and lead them to the safety of their mother's lap.  It makes me proud.

This week I stepped in.  Something was shared on a local homeschooling board that was unkind.  Ruthlessly unkind.  I stepped in and said that it was not welcome in a group that is made up of people from all different backgrounds, even some that the post was aimed at. It was political in nature, and it seems that people in that group feel that that's why I stepped in and said it was unwelcome.  But it's not.  It was unwelcome because it called the other party evil.  It wasn't supporting anything.  It was tearing down.  Knowing that a handful of people in the group were of those being identified as evil, I did what I ask my kids to do and said, no.  It is completely possible to speak about politics without hacking away at someone else's dignity in the process.

What followed were some private e-mails of thanks and gratitude for standing up for kindness, but some public posts referring to posting hateful propaganda as an act of bravery.  My heart was broken that so many of my friends and fellow mothers appeared to feel like it was okay to be unkind to people as long as they are people who disagree with you politically.  I literally felt physically sick for most of the week, as more thank you's rolled in privately to me, and more public praise for the woman who posted for sharing something so true and important.  Even after the woman who posted it and I had agreed to hug and make up, the support for sharing the cruel video continued.  In this land of the free, must we really exercise our right to free speech by being unkind?  By propagating intolerance?

As I sat on my couch and ranted about what a lonely place this is to live now that I have to face the fact that maybe all people aren't generally loving despite differences, that maybe people really are willing to believe the worst about people who aren't just like them, Joe reminded me that it had been the same way in Oregon.  It had just been the liberals who felt justified in hating on republicans.  It had been the scientists who felt justified debasing those who believe in God.  I hadn't seen it much there because that was a period in my life during which I had very little contact with the outside world.  I had babies at home and my world was very small.  When I did see other mothers, we talked about survival, sleep, and clogged milk ducts.  We didn't talk about politics or religion.  But Joe ventured out into the world every day, and had to listen to hate.  I remember it now that he has reminded me.  I remember him coming home furious that people thought it was okay to bash the conservatives.  To proclaim loud and proud that science trumps God and the religious are all idiots.

I have always valued diversity, but suddenly I see lack of diversity as one of the most dangerous and terrifying things that could come over a society.  When I look back through history at times of of the greatest atrocities, I see a lack of diversity.  I see people who aren't like the bulk being eliminated because life is more comfortable when everyone is on the exact same page and no one will ever point out problems.  But when we are surrounded by people who will only ever tell us that we are right and righteous, when we only ever meet people who hate those that we hate and love who we love, how can we ever grow or learn compassion?  How can we even realize that we are being unkind when we view "them" as the obviously evil  people on television, in other parts of the country, or in other parts of the world instead of as our neighbors who we respect and love?  That's the thing.

Here we have a lot of people who literally do not realize that non Mormons or liberals live among them.  They really don't.  I was at a workshop one time and the speaker said these exact words:  "I can say this because we're all LDS here."  I didn't know what to do.  In a split second, I checked my options.  Do I raise my hand and call out "No!  No we're not!  So if you don't want my ears to hear it, don't say it!"  That felt rude, so I just kept my head down and said a little prayer that nothing would be said that would be hurtful or private.  I felt like such an impostor.  Not all, but many people here really believe that everyone they meet, is a republican Mormon.  And they talk like it.  When they talk to us, complete strangers in the grocery line or neighbors over the fence, they use phrases like, "those liberals," or even "those damn liberals" if they're feeling like we're passionate conservatives.  And then they follow it with the one word question "Right?"  I may not be a liberal, but that doesn't mean that unkind words about them are welcome.

I used to silently nod and plan a fast escape.  But that's not being true and honest.  It's not standing up for the little ones, the minorities, the weak.  It's not stepping between.  And when speaking against hate, we are stepping between even when the other person isn't there.  That's when it's the most important.

In the middle of the storm, when I was feeling the most disheartened over the state of politics,  I heard this interview on the radio with republican Scott Rigell from Virginia.  If you want to hear just the part I'm in love with, skip to the 2:40 mark.   I want to send this man a thank you card, not for how he votes or what party he is in, but for being a voice that honors the true spirit of civility even in the face of opposition from his own.  He gave me a moment of much needed hope in a very dark hour.

I am getting real and committing to not looking the other way when someone is being senselessly debased because of their affiliation with a group.  I'm getting real by admitting that it stinking hurts to hear judgement  all of the time, and I don't want you to be afraid to talk to me because you think you might hurt me or because I'm easily offended.  I want you to talk to me so that you can finally see that there are "others" living right in your own town and we have values, and dignity, and we love our country, and we love YOU!  We love you even with your misconceptions about us.  And when we say no to unkindness, it's not because we don't love you.  It's because we do.  It's because we value your spirit and hateful words do not do justice to the true kindness in your heart.

If you want to talk to someone who isn't just like you, if you want to be able to ask anything without the risk of offense, if you want to hear the honest truth about how your actions and words affect your neighbors, or even if you're just looking to reaffirm your belief that the rest of us are evil (because I'm pretty sure you'll find that we're not) call me, come by, drop me an e-mail, whatever makes you comfortable.  I'm here and I'm happy to lovingly talk about anything you imagine stands between us.  


  1. Anonymous18.10.13


  2. Anonymous18.10.13

    One more

  3. What a thoughtful post Skyla, and SUCH an important topic these days. I was recently in Papua New Guinea and chatting with a man at the airport when I was waiting to fly back home to Australia, and was suddenly shocked to hear racist things coming out of his mouth. I made opposite points but did not totally say, "I don't agree with that." But it was getting very, very uncomfortable and made me sick to my stomach as well - I really wanted to say something more bold but just couldn't figure out how to do it. Luckily I had a get-away when we were called to board the plane...

    Thanks so much for posting.

    1. Thanks, Chelsea! And wow. That sounds awkward.

  4. Great post, Skyla. It makes me sad that there are people in our group that feel left out or who are afraid to share their beliefs for fear they will be ostracized, especially when I have felt so welcomed. The issues this week have made me rethink how I approach political discussion, among other things. It can be hard to predict how things will be perceived by the "other" side, so I'm sure I make my fair share of mistakes. I'm actually grateful for the times I've found myself ON the "other" side because then I get a little taste of what it is to be on the receiving end of intolerance, be it subtle or blatant. It really can feel like a different world. I'm glad you spoke up.

    1. Hi Cara! I;m so glad that you've felt so welcomed here! I think everyone is going to feel a little sensitive once in a while no matter who they are, but also I think most of us can tell when someone is trying to be kind and somehow just struck a nerve anyway (which is really easy to get over fast), and when someone has simply forgotten that others are around. Repeatedly. LOL!

      I think a good rule of thumb when we're talking politics is to be clear about what we support, without feeling like we have to say anything about political issues or parties or politicians that we don't care for. Imagine if politicians only spoke about what they DO plan to do rather than picking apart what the other guy does. We'd know so much more about our candidates and about each other if that's how we approached things.

      I really believe that it's okay to disagree as long as we leave the other guy's dignity in tact.

      I am so glad that you're in our community, Cara!!!

  5. Skyla ~ I really appreciate your post. It hurts my heart to think how often your children have been offended by self-imposing children, and their heartless comments. It always hurts more when our children are the one's affected. From reading your post, it's helped me remember to be thoughtful, and more importantly to teach my children values of charity, kindness, compassion, and acceptance.


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