7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Speak Up

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Speak Up

Several years ago, with one tentative toe dipping into middle age, I read life-changing words from the pen of Ruth Bell Graham, who confided she was finally learning that she did not need to weight in on every topic OR to speak up at every opportunity. This seemed reasonable to me at the time, a wise grid through which to steward my words, and I have consciously applied the rubric to social situations. (I’m sure the practice has been a blessing to both family and friends.)

However, recently, I’ve noticed some regret creeping in around the edges of my restraint. While I’m still an advocate for verbal discretion, I can think of at least two memorial services as well a couple of other gatherings where I felt strongly that I had something meaningful to share, but talked myself out of it:  too risky, too vulnerable, too “out there.”

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang is challenging me to look carefully at the way I use my words, lending the realization that even my choice to be silent communicates something. Apathy, insecurity, or laziness are not traits I want to “give voice” to, so I’m trusting for courage to lean into a gracious and yet more vocal role in the communities I inhabit.

Khang shares her own legacy of silence, struggling with her role as an immigrant from South Korea, feeling voiceless, learning to raise her voice “doing the good work of the good news,” while struggling with credibility and suffering from imposter syndrome. Challenges arising from her experience as a woman of color in a leadership role in para-church ministry drove her deeply into the Word of God for assurance from biblical role models like Esther and Moses. Beloved and known by our Creator, we are called, at times, to speak gritty truth to one another, not to hurt or tear down, but to bless and to influence for good.

Learning to Speak Up

Going forward, I am working on a reasoned approach to raising my voice based on seven questions Kathy Khang has posed:

  • Who Am I? What unique perspectives do I bring to the table as a white, middle-aged, long-time-married mother of sons with plenty of time in a pew? Who else is sitting around the same table with me? What can we learn from each other?
  • What is in My Wheelhouse? The downward draw of imposter syndrome has muzzled me more than once in situations where I probably had the most experience in the room, but was too intimidated to speak up–even though I saw the conversation going in a direction that looked ominous to me. The lesson here? Any combination of gifting and experience that God has graciously given comes with a responsibility to speak up.
  • Am I Willing to Fail or Be Judged? Quite honestly, his is huge for me, but most of the time, I am probably much safer than I imagine. Kathy points out that testing my voice is a matter of humility. I don’t need to “toughen up, become immune, or be unmoved by criticism or failure.” (59) I just need to be willing to learn from it.
  • What Are My Unique Gifts, Talents, and Skills? Good stewardship demands that I put myself in the way of risk to be available for God’s agenda.
  • Who Are My People? Who needs my encouragement? Whom has God already put within my circle of influence?
  • What Diverse Voices Am I Learning From? Reading, listening, paying attention to people whose faces and stories are radically different from my own has been life changing. Raise Your Voice sat in a pile beside my bed for months before I made the commitment to read it, because I knew the author would call me out of my comfort zone. A word to the wise:  sometimes the journey into discomfort is easier in community. If you’re looking for a challenge, The Red Couch Book Club is reading Kathy’s book this month.
  • How Do You Care for Yourself? Self care can be as simple as going to bed at a reasonable time, eating healthfully and mindfully, or saying no to unreasonable demands. If my voice is shrill from exhaustion or unreasonable because of poor preparation, the message God has given to me may not be conveyed in the best possible way.

Raise Your Voice!

There’s plenty of work in these seven questions to last me well into the new year, and I’m wondering if you also are feeling the tug to raise your voice in profound and courageous words. It can be a fearsome thing to be visible in the world by becoming uncomfortably audible. God invites us to inhabit our vulnerability by faith, a sinewy confidence in a sovereign God that trusts in His placement of our voices, cherishes His assignment of our customized message, and leaves the outcome in His powerful hands.

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by sharing products and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

53 thoughts on “7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Speak Up”

  1. Fine then! Just yesterday I wrote the words. I spoke up. Then, instead of uploading I sat on the words, thinking I needed to be sure. Sometimes, quite often actually, I choose not to speak, instead I write then tuck away. And then you post this.
    So, fine then, I did too. It’s scary.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Michele, I think I may have the opposite problem as you: I think I am too quick to speak up. I need to remind myself that not everyone really needs my nuggets of wisdom all the time! Learning when to speak and when to be silent and listen is one of the hardest lessons for me. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I will also check out the book club you linked to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am in the conflicted club on this, and I think that is why Kathy’s book was so helpful to me. There have been times when I’ve NOT spoken up and been very sorry after the fact about the lost opportunity, and I think that tally outweighs the number of times I’ve spoken up and been sorry . . . however, I do have that experience as well.
      It’s a tightrope walk, really, and one that we need plenty of Godly wisdom for.
      Actually, I’m glad you are going to check out the Red Couch. There’s a always a good book under discussion over there. You should join and participate, because you have so many good insights when you are reading.

      Like

  3. Michele,
    Thank you for your honest disclosure about how this book has challenged you. Isn’t God kind to lead us in a way that challenges us, yet draws us near in the process. I remember thinking I didn’t have much to share with young mom in our church because I did many things wrong. I had a friend challenge me that it was my mistakes that would help them the most, not my successes. I began saying yes to every opportunity God gave in sharing my heart with others. Mind you, it was when asked. That was huge for me. I will turn 60 this year and I am beyond grateful for the relationships I have built through mentoring younger women in our church.
    I also wonder how much social media has helped us become more reluctant to share our thoughts face to face. We can’t edit spoken words like we can a text or post.
    Loved this post.
    Blessings,
    Debi Walter

    Like

    1. Wow, I really think you are on to something with your thoughts on social media. In fact, just recently I was going to text someone, and my husband said, “You need to SAY that.” (He’s a keeper.)
      Thanks for sharing, too, your wisdom earned from throwing off shame and reluctance in order to become a much-needed voice among the younger women in your circle. I do the self-editing function all the time myself, and am also VERY conscious of the fact that my voice gets heard in a teaching role in my church, and I don’t want to “wear out my welcome.”
      As I said in my review, this book sat unread in a pile for several months, simply because I did not want to sort out the strands of my thinking on this issue that hits on so many hot buttons for me. But now I’m glad I did–particularly because of voices like your own that are meeting me here in the discomfort!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you finally read that book! Look at the good God had stored up for you and for those of us who read your blog!
        It’s imperative we remember this, we not only have our own reluctance to speak up to deal with but also an enemy of the church and our souls who has tried to silence God’s Truth for millennia. I don’t want to be the one Jesus spoke of who buried the treasure he had been given.
        I’ll have to add this book to my pile by my bed. 😊 You have challenged me to consider that pile and ask myself if there is a hidden reason I have put off reading certain books. What a great start to my week! Thank you, Michele!

        Like

  4. What a topic, Michele! And a lifelong challenge to know when to speak up and when to stay silent. Since I retired, I have felt more freedom in my writing (though haven’t published much of it yet), weighing in on work related topics that could have gotten me in ‘trouble’ if I’d raised this voice while employed. That feels good! But in conversation it is such a balancing act. I try to sense when someone is itching for a fight and isn’t open to any other point of view, and remain on the sidelines. Unfortunately in today’s political climate these opportunities arise all too often! Relying on God for guidance is essential to serenity but may ruffle feathers when you know you need to speak up.

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    1. Interesting that retirement has had such an impact on your writing! And I hardly ever weigh in on political matters, mostly because I feel uninformed–which is my own fault. One of my goals for this year is to get to election season without feeling as if I’m standing in the voting booth looking at a test I haven’t studied for!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, this sounds like a great voice! I think I err on the side of speaking up too much with my own thoughts. Instead, I’d like to keep it simple and keep it on Christ’s words when appropriate. I think I screwed up recently with the way I spoke up to a friend of mine:/

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  6. I really like the seven questions to think through. As a person, I am good to speak up when I want but I know there are opportunities. There are times I should have or I shouldn’t have. How much to share and when to stop. I liked your post and it made me think about myself.

    Like

  7. Thanks so much for stopping by and for giving your opinion of my post about Blogging!! Great post!! Over the years, I have learned that i need to speak up for myself, my family and my friends!!
    hugs,
    Deb

    Like

  8. I’m sort of a split personality when it comes to speaking my truth. I tend to do so freely (trying very hard to do so with “grace”) with those in my day-to-day life. But when it comes to relationships where I feel less certain or accepted, I struggle to muster the courage, Michele. So this sounds like wise advice and another great book that you’ve found for us! I’ll be pinning and checking into it too!

    Like

    1. This is an incredibly helpful way of analyzing your situation, Beth. I think we do have a tendency to run roughshod over “our people,” and then to practice more restraint with our fringe relationships.
      I will confess to a certain amount of just plain laziness when it comes to people on the fringes. I really have to value a relationship if I am willing to stick my neck out or make waves.

      Like

  9. I totally agree on your points. Speaking up, in my Humble opinion, is also a good way to keep a marriage healthy over the years. Holding grudges and disappointments could harm even the best relationship.

    Like

  10. Why is our tongue so much trouble, whether we spoke out wrongly or didn’t when we should have? So many good points here, though. The one about humility is spot on. I guess that could be a good rudder.

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  11. Interesting! Thanks for sharing those 7 questions to think about before speaking. It’s totally a tightrope act on knowing when to speak up and when to keep thoughts to one’s self.

    And you said it so well for those of us who teach that we should be: “VERY conscious of the fact that my voice gets heard in a teaching role in my church, and I don’t want to “wear out my welcome.”

    I don’t want people to think that I think I know it all! Because I sure don’t!

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    1. Yes, and I don’t want people thinking to themselves, “Her again?”
      Of course, there IS the thought, too, that I am still responsible to speak up when I become aware of something that needs saying. We need godly wisdom!!

      Like

  12. I’ve erred on both sides – speaking when I should not have or in a less considerate way than I should have – or, more often, not speaking when I should have. These are good questions to try to maintain the best balance.

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  13. Great review, my friend! When I was younger I was most often silent, believing that I had less knowledge on just about anything and everything. I tested the waters more in middle age, but still yielded fairly often even when someone else was spouting information I knew more about when it was clear they were wanting to play “expert” that day. Now I am often the older (if not oldest) in a conversation and in some circles that and their knowledge of my expertise as a clinical counselor, marriage and family therapist, and special education teacher may give me some credibility and make them want to hear what I may offer. In other settings I am beginning to be viewed as “older” and since wisdom is not always recognized as a quality to be desired, I sometimes say less. Every season and every group and individual is different. In the end I am reminding myself that I will need to give an account for what I say, but also what I fail to say.

    Like

    1. Phew, that’s surely true. We are even accountable for our silence. And it saddens me when I hear women say that their words are discounted because of their age. This is surely a testimony to our present day foolishness.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I have always felt like I needed to give an answer or response but as I’m getting older and growing in Christ, I am seeing more now that there is a time to speak and a time to refrain. Sounds like this book could help me better understand the inner conflict I feel at times when it comes to speaking or not speaking. Very well written review!

    Like

    1. Well, maybe, but then there’s the fact that young people are looking for mentors and people who are willing to speak truth into their lives. I think we just need to be mindful of listening at least as much as we talk!

      Like

  15. Oh, Michele, this nailed me. I’ve been the one who is intimidated into silence. But you’re right. Our silence sometimes speaks much more loudly than any words could. And the reminder of how important self-care is in order to minister well to others, and to speak well . . . yeah, I might need to work more on that (says the girl getting over the worst cold in years).

    Thank you for challenging me to step out of my comfort zone and trust God more when it comes to using the voice He’s given me.

    Like

    1. So sorry to hear that you have been sick–and on top of all that’s going on in your world right now . . .
      Trusting that God will give you words of love and compassion for the people in your life who need them right now.

      Like

  16. Thanks for sharing. At first I misread it and thought it said, when “not” to speak up. But indeed there are times when it is important to speak up. This looks like a helpful read, especially for those who tend to stay quiet.

    Like

  17. Michele, those questions are really, really good. I need to take a screenshot! Or read the book. While Ruth Bell Graham made a wise point, one I need to learn, it IS important to ask God if we should speak up or stay quiet! 🙂 I’m sometimes not sure myself!

    Like

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