Don't Yell, Don't Whisper, But Speak: Part I
You talk, but have you learned to speak?
This is part 1 of a multi-part series on speaking honestly, openly, and thoughtfully when all three qualities are increasingly absent today.
Self-expression has never come easily to me.
Despite what my podcast might convey, I’ve always struggled to say what I think, when I think it. It’s not easy to express your honest thoughts today, though it’s a little easier than it was several years back. Honest expression today requires facing malicious misinterpretations that ignore your point and deem you a moral threat: unworthy of debate, worthy of abuse.
Honest, thoughtful expression is fucking hard—not just hard but fucking hard; it’s taking off your suit of anonymous armor and bearing the soft, true flesh of your genuine self.
Not a single person who sarcastically insults or self-righteously condemns honest expression has the strength of soul and character to utter a true, meaningful word in public.
I stood in a modest conference room recently, rows of chairs all turned to face something important in the front of the room. I took my place in the room, but first I had to walk past all those chairs. The girl who dreaded classroom presentations, the girl who slumped in her chair to avoid the teacher’s attention, the girl who ran to her room when the doorbell rang—she was the speaker people would fill chairs to see.
How the hell did I get here? Where did I learn to say what I thought, with no filler to soften my point or clauses to avoid bad-faith attacks? When it feels like a well-meaning question can derail a career, going from people-pleaser to controversial public speaker and writer requires a fundamental inner change.
We’re navigating a weird, fractured culture where what you’re allowed to say is constantly being renegotiated. Are we allowed to question the government or was being anti-establishment only en vogue during the last presidency? Are we allowed to discuss conflicts between today’s transgender activism and yesterday’s feminism or did “women’s spaces” stop being a feminist achievement a few years ago?
This constantly changing landscape of acceptable ideas isn’t an accident; when what’s acceptable is eternally in flux, the only way to be acceptable is by giving up originality and taking your cue from others instead.
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