Coming to terms with when to speak up about a topic and when to be silent can be a challenge! In a world that pulls at us with constant distractions and frequent interruptions, it can be difficult to find the time to reflect on our relationships. It takes time and energy to uncover what is going on in our hearts, and our energy and time can get consumed by other necessary priorities. Also, fear or anxiety around what to say and how to say it may keep us from speaking up. The worry of making a mistake or being misunderstood may be too great to face the conversation. For most of us, speaking up is too risky, costly, draining and too time consuming. From my observations, avoiding hard conversations seems to be a normal human response.
So let’s normalize it. It’s human to not want to speak up about something that’s uncomfortable and could cause further discomfort or that has the potential to come in-between relationships. Some of us have experienced the consequences of these attempts and it’s been very painful. We may have lost or broken relationships because of trying to do what seemed right at the time. For one reason or another, most of us don’t like the thought of speaking up and will do everything we can to avoid it.
At the same time, God always has more for us than our natural human response. He is out for our redemption. On the one hand, thank God for that! We have hope in our humanness. On the other hand, what does redemption have to do with this topic?
Even around a seemingly small matter like speaking up, Jesus turns things around and upside down! I love what Jesus envisions for us even though it can be hard to do. His purpose is to revitalize people and situations. It is so important to us, to our relationship, and to our Christian community that we don’t want to miss what God is up to here.
Throughout Ephesians 4, Paul discusses speaking the truth in love, and he connects that with our growth, unity and overcoming a destabilizing lack of truth. In verse 14, he compares and contrasts infancy and maturity related to speaking the truth in love. Those who are early in their faith unwisely avoid it and those who are mature wisely engage in speaking truth. Paul goes on to discuss how we end up “tossed around by the wind and waves” when we avoid speaking truth to one another. This means we can become uncertain, not solidly founded, confused, and even chaotic. Truth can get lost in the midst of untruth, lies and deception. People, groups and organizations can lose their way as the darkness of this dynamic overtakes them. Rather, we are to speak the truth in love to one another to grow individually and together. As we do this, we can continue to move in a principled, unified and solid direction.
Dr. Jeanine Parolini, PhD, MBA, MA