I am terrified at the idea of speaking up and speaking out. I am afraid of the wounding woundedness that comes out of people when their defenses are triggered. I believe in speaking truth even when it is difficult. I believe in being gentle but honest, even with difficult feedback. But I don’t know how to strike that balance. I am afraid of the relational ruptures that may ensue - even with people with whom I have no relationships, and even though I hold the belief that relationships are stronger if rupture and repair has taken place. I don’t know how to navigate “truth in love” when there is little (or no) love. And when there is love, the fear of repercussions is doubled. I don’t know how to do this. So I guess at some point, I just just have to start trying.
That is what this season has been. I am stumblingly and falteringly speaking about the injustices that I encounter in this world, and I am reminding myself that the pain I feel when I screw up is not nearly as much as the pain felt by those who have inspired the words that are written on my heart. I try to remember that causing another person pain isn’t the worst possible thing I could do, and that people are capable of forgiveness and love even when you cause them pain. I don’t believe that yet. Not believing that makes everything else harder.
I have posted controversial things that I believe in passionately without trying to think through how all who see it might or might not be offended if they read it. I have calmly and un-emotionally been ready to give my defense of these postings, hoping to have rational conversations without triggering people’s defenses. It hasn’t really worked. Why is it so much harder to do this in real life than it is to do it as a therapist? If anyone can talk about something and make it palatable enough to not trigger the listener’s defense mechanisms, shouldn’t it be a therapist? I have publicly jumped in on threads to defend my friends who are being told to “stop playing the race card” and that “all is equal,” taking huge risks and being called a racist who is using my “advanced intelligence” to try and cover up my racist beliefs. And I want to quit talking. I want to quit jumping in. And I want to hold my beliefs folded under my hands and next to my heart, protected where no one can see them unless I trust them enough to take down my hands. But instead, I tell my friends the hurtful words and I ask if I am being blind to my own racism or if I am using intellectualization as a defense, and I try to listen and hear their words of grace to me. And then I try again.
In some recovery programs, they consider relapse to actually be a necessary part of recovery. What if in falling and failing, I am still moving forward? And what if this is true of all of us who look at our faults in the mirror and stubbornly work to address them and be better versions of our forever imperfect selves?
It may be failing, but it is movement. After all, the goal wasn’t to succeed or even to win anyone over. The goal was to speak boldly and authentically out of the passionate places in my heart, to speak my tears loudly and to recognize that they are not mine to withhold. My mistakes may be mistakes, but they are movement. And maybe that is enough for now.