“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself the other for helping others.”
– Audrey Hepburn
What does your voice sound like? Do you whisper words that go unnoticed? Does your roar overpower your point? Are your words like a splattered buck-shot, difficult to find the significance in? What provokes you? What prompts you to participate in a conversation? Is there something that ignites the fire in your soul to release the power of your voice?
Our society relies on communication, though I question how much we actually value it. From a young age, we begin to teach our children how to communicate. Words like, “mom, dad, yes, no” are vital for a small child to get its needs met. Even the choice to cry or not is a lesson in the power of one’s voice. School children are taught the alphabet, vocabulary words and the how to apply the written language. The most important lesson is simple.
Your power lies in your voice. How to teach that is a little more difficult. Your voice can be used for a shield of distraction or a tool for liberation. Your voice can be used as a weapon to harm or an instrument of healing.
We have an entire generation who use their fingers as the tool for their voice. Words are thrown around the internet like hand grenades leaving unaccounted for damage. People saying and writing what they want without any thought or purpose behind their words, causing pain and provoking rage. This phenomenon may have begun with a generation, but its popularity has caught on and is spreading throughout the rest of us. We drop these bombs from behind a screen with protection from accountability and we have all become numb to the effects of the power of our words. “Say it to my face” no longer applies.
As I sit here behind my screen, sharing my voice at the ripe ole age of “no-yet-40” I wonder what my younger voice would have cared to share. The 22-year-old-me was full of piss and vinegar and thought that she would do as she damn well pleases. However, the truth was, 22-year-old me, was more concerned with how you would perceive what she told you. It was more important to her what you thought of her, than what she was saying. She didn’t realize that using her voice for gossip was her way of distracting you from her own mess. Saying she was “fine” deflected your concern for her, so no one would look harder at a young girl in a woman’s body trying to figure out how to be an adult. My 22-year-old-voice roared like a lion, and my words had a bite. My shield of distraction was a powerful weapon used with little thought of the ramifications of its actions. 22-year-old-me was not a villain, but a confused, damaged, angry, sad young woman who had friends and a family that loved her. Yet still, her voice was not yet hers. She wasn’t fully aware of the power it held.
We have an obligation to teach our kids how to respect the power of their words, so we need to practice what we preach. Just because they hide behind a screen and a keyboard doesn’t give them free reign to share their every unfiltered thought. We would do well to remember that for ourselves. For every thought, there is a consequence or reward to follow. Reaction does not have to be the protocol.
Let’s take a minute and think.
Take a minute.
Take a breath.
Once you put something out into the universe, there is no rewind. No do-over. No shoving it back in. Sleeping on it is an appropriate response. If you don’t know, it’s okay. Just wait before you react.
College and professional football referees have the ability to review the previous play before making a call. They literally get a rewind button, time to review the play, discuss amongst themselves and decide what happens next. Once they do, the head ref turns on his microphone, the crowd quiets and he announces, “upon further review.” Whatever he says, it pissed off about half of the fans watching while the other half cheers. However, before he clicks the mic to live, he takes a minute. He breathes and then responds.
As a social worker, I had the opportunity to advocate for families who were involved with the family court system. This brought many highs and lows. Family court impacts the most important aspects of one’s life, their children, their relationships, their finances and sometimes their freedom. Emotions were always running at the highest level. While sitting with many mothers before entering the court room for a multitude of reasons, we would many times have a similar conversation. She would voice her frustrations, her pain and her fears. I would be the sounding board for her every thought and feeling, learning her story so I could support her when we went before the judge. My only advice for these warrior women as we entered into the legal arena was “don’t let your message get lost in your mouth.” Translation: As right as you are. As hard as you’ve fought. Don’t react to your emotions. Keep your head up. Be prepared for the consequences and the rewards that come from using your voice. I never had to explain that to a single woman I worked with. They just knew.
Not everyone is going to agree with you (thank the good Lord). You will feel compelled to react to things that push your buttons and get under your tough, thick skin. You have a right to feel your feelings, you just don’t have to react to them immediately. The choice is yours. But when you do use that quick tongue, be vulnerable enough to admit when you are wrong. There is power in accountability. Let your voice be heard!
Photo Credit: Photography by Angela Gross