SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER — A NONVIOLENT RESPONSE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who has been taught to respond with kindness.

I’m also pretty sure that I’m not the only person who has been the target of a gut-wrenching insult.

When that happens, it can be difficult to respond with kindness.

Sometimes, you just have to clap back (respond quickly to critical remarks or unfair treatment).

In case you missed it, the editorial board at The Baltimore Sun did just that, after much of its city was described as a place where “no human being would want to live”; as a “very dangerous and filthy place”; and as a “rat and rodent-infested mess”.

The board fired back: “Better to have a few rats than to be one”

The interchange got me thinking about the times in my life when I’ve needed to use the power of my voice to set the record straight; to speak up for others who have no voice or are unable to speak for themselves; to speak up when I see a wrong or injustice being done; etc.

As people of goodwill, we must learn to speak truth to power – to confront those who hold important positions, to demand a moral response to a problem. I know it means taking a risk; but more importantly, it means taking a stand for what you truly believe. It is a powerful nonviolent response to injustice and abuse of power.

Because we espouse a truth that love endures and overcomes (and hatred destroys), speaking up can be a true act of humanity. Silence is not always golden. In fact, silence can sometimes be seen as complicit agreement or approval.

Sometimes we sit back and say nothing when something really needs to be said. It could be an idea, a suggestion, an observation, a criticism…but for some reason we don’t speak up.

We may be afraid of hurting another person, looking mean or foolish, or opening a can of worms that will make a mess. Sometimes it seems like staying silent is the wiser choice.

Despite the risk, standing up and saying your piece – with peace is best. It’s really okay to say “Ouch! Get off me!” when you’re being trampled on. It lets the other person know that you are being hurt and that they need to move.

Has there ever been a time when you knew you should have spoken up, but you didn’t? If so, how did it make you feel?

Posted in Associate Blog

13 responses to “SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER — A NONVIOLENT RESPONSE

  1. I do speak up but it seems to make no difference in our country’s present administration. I feel hopeless,powerless when all the protests,etc fall on deaf ears. How did we lose the balance of power that was a safeguard for democracy?

    1. Tisha,
      Do not lose heart. Sometimes we have to take time for self-renewal, but we must never be silent. It took time to get where we are, and it will take time to turn things around. We may not be able to see it, but every little bit helps us move in the right direction. As I said in last week’s blog: We must continue to sow seeds of love, compassion, hope, harmony, calm and peace amid storms of fear, hatred, dishonesty, and injustice. Love overcomes hate.

  2. Thank you dholleran for clarifying “balancing” Loren M Levet’s post.

    I am grateful to you, Colette, for urging us to speak out. I’ve felt guilt each time I’ve been silent when I might have helped another person.

  3. Thanks Colette, there been many a times when I had the guts to speak to powers that were in depending the Hispanic communities wherever I ministered. It was not easy but it made me feel good about what I did. When I was on the National Farm Workers board, I did just that when we went to face to face with i.e. Driscoll.etc, I stood up and said the prayer that we got from Cesar Chavez. That calmed the waters.

  4. Thanks for the reminder Colette! Most of the time I speak up for others. It’s myself I have a hard time with.

  5. Once again,nice going! There have been so many times that I really lose it and CAN’T hold my tongue. I believe in “telling it like it is,” and I do,!!! Love St. Catharine!

  6. Thanks, Colette, for your insights which are always thought-provoking. Keep up the challenge, for people like me who tend to keep quiet rather than response…. thinking its better to “keep the peace”.

  7. Yes, it was a time of speaking truth to power. Three supervisors were opposed to what I knew should be done, and I did not argue the case. I still feel that I failed to represent a powerless person. I am trying to learn to give my self the time and respect to formulate a better response in challenging situations, and not just be taken off guard. I think it relates to being taught to be nice. “Nice” is different from “Kind.” As always, I am glad you wrote this, Colette.

  8. Hi Collette,
    Thanks for your wise words. I just finished reading a chapter from Ron Rolhesiser’s book, Sacred Fire, which talks about just that. I am feeling strongly that I should be willing to risk and take a stand. The challenge is to do it in peace. The answer for me is prayer and study.

  9. I’m “speaking up” this time. In 2015 Bernie Sanders said West Baltimore was like a third world country and that it was a disgrace the way the poorest lived. Did the Baltimore Sun respond? Please balance this blog with both sides of the spectrum. Veritas is our quest.

    1. Sanders’ exact words. His words and tenor are markedly different than what we are seeing from the White House.
      After touring the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested before dying in police custody earlier that year, Sanders noted that “America is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. But anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you’re in a wealthy nation. You would think that you were in a Third World country. What we’re talking about is a community in which half of the people don’t have jobs. We’re talking about a community in which there are hundreds of buildings that are uninhabitable. We’re talking about a community where kids are unable to go to schools that are decent.”

      “We spend $80 billion a year locking people up,” Sanders added. “We wouldn’t have to do that if people had jobs and if people had an education.”

      1. Thank you, Dee, for sharing.

        Loren, please keep in mind that this is not about politics, this is about speaking up when it matters. Also, this is not a news article, this is a blog, expressing an opinion to generate thought and dialogue. I am happy that you joined the conversation. To be clear, my point is: For good people, staying silent is not an option. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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