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Courageous words

There are a few scenarios from my past when I wish I would have had the courage to speak up and say my piece rather than have kept silent, choosing to avoid potential conflict. However, instead of quarreling with another individual, I argued with myself, trying to understand why I didn’t have the nerve to speak up in that moment.

It’s disheartening. You conjure up many justifications why you should have said something, and even more excuses why you were too cowardly not to. This one-person conversation never goes well and typically ends in lots of self-shaming.

When we recognize this aggressive and brazen behavior in someone else, we tend to be a bit envious of their tell-it-like-it-is style and no-nonsense attitude. They have no hesitations about telling anyone precisely what’s on their minds regardless of the consequences or perils their statements may instigate.

I have fallen prey to lauding this behavior on more than one occasion. Mainly when I’ve been despondent about looking back at some of those situations and still feel some frustration and pain, even though some occurred over 30 years ago. But shouldn’t someone whose purpose is helping others heal from these kinds of predicaments, also be able to do the same for himself?

An encouraging turn

If there is one subject of which I’m constantly guilty, it would be alleging we can heal from any circumstance from our past. I decided it was time to put this to the test in one of my memories where I’d wished I had spoken up.

Nearly 30 years ago, I wasn’t doing well financially and dining at a fine restaurant was a rare treat. Unfortunately, the waiter was more preoccupied with being insulting and patronizing through the entire meal. When the meal was finished, I was extremely upset with myself for not saying something loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear and give him a taste of what he was dishing out.

This horribly embarrassing memory raised my ire dozens of times over the years often ending in frustration and anger. Then about six months ago, I challenged myself to heal from the residual anguish. If I can’t do this for myself, how can I claim to help others through it?

The hurt was caused by the embarrassment I felt from the waiter’s constant putdowns.

Furthermore, recalling my inaction added to the irritation. Thankfully, I came to the realization blaming his actions were only stifling my own happiness and by forgiving myself for not taking the action I deemed appropriate, allowed me to release the resentment which accompanied that memory. I do not condone his conduct but allowing his brash manner to negatively impact my actions only damages me.

Speak up

The number of people “unabashedly speaking their minds” is on the rise and social media is undoubtedly one of the explanations for this climb. It is safe sitting behind a screen and typing any provocative or incendiary sentence with slim chances of taking responsibility or facing dire repercussions for the inflammatory rhetoric. Such shocking comments are coming from people in every demographic, cultural, and educational background as though being harsh, deliberate, and unfiltered entitles them to some authority to which others must pay homage.

I am not suggesting speaking one’s mind is always a treacherous move. There are times when we need to be more assertive and not allow others to unduly persuade or bully us into something. Standing up for what we know is fair or for the rights of others takes courage and also raises our self-esteem.

But speaking up simply for the purpose of rabble-rousing or being argumentative is neither an act of bravery nor a show of strength. It usually is a sign of a deeper, more guarded issue which this boorish behavior is meant to deflect or disguise.

It’s important to understand the reasons behind our actions and what outcome our outbursts will bring. When someone shows no hesitation in loudly proclaiming what they deem as “the way it is,” often and more accurately, it shines a light on their own narrow perspective or their need to hide some fault or past hurt.

While some personalities are more prone to be the type of person who interrupts and interjects, this behavior is encouraged by getting rewarded. We’ve all seen someone rudely disrupt or ridicule someone while onlookers agree or laugh. These reactions reward their conduct and embolden them to continue. It doesn’t take long for them to alter their combative responses into a permanent, default behavior.

We are born into this world with a need and trust for others; it is our own natural inclination. An aggressive or confrontational attitude is not the norm and somewhere during the journey, their experiences duped them into becoming argumentative, aggressive, and antagonistic toward others.

Something also adversely rewarded them for exhibiting garish actions, making them feel proud for how they learned to treat others. When this trait is picked up at an early age, the person simultaneously develops a verbal dexterity making their tirades sound more believable.

The issue is not necessarily what is being said nor in the way it is spoken, it is the intent of the person who claims they are only “telling it like it is.” Rarely are their remarks intended to encourage, uplift, or at least help others. They merely want to get in a verbal dispute with someone to embarrass or worse, divert themselves from facing their own issues.

The irony is that the more self-centered and egocentric a person becomes, the harder it is for them to camouflage their vile scheme or purpose. Their narcissism won’t allow them to say anything except good about themselves no matter how ridiculous or foolish they sound to others. Their minds will always convince them they are right.


I encourage everyone to speak up for themselves, and even more loudly when their intentions are true. But I would also urge you to be mindful of what you say. Sometimes the actions of others need to be dealt with harshly, but the outcome should be for the betterment and benefit of all. However, when you are gentle and compassionate, thoughtful and kind, understanding and caring; you will inspire others and reward them for contributing to this world and making it a better place.

My thanks to Amanda Swanepoel on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.

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