My heart is beating fast and I can feel the heat in my face. My hands feel a little shaky, although I don't think you would notice if you saw me. My internal conversation is going back and forth between self-righteousness and self-doubt. Here's what just happened: I was on Facebook and saw that a friend of mine--someone I used to know and like but rarely see anymore (although I did see him recently)--posted a comment that I found deeply offensive. Deeply. And personal. So I commented. I didn't want to--I hate conflict and I hate exposing myself like that--but I felt compelled to. I couched my comment in tongue-in-cheek teasing (at least I hope that's how it came across) but I know that what I said was also provocative.
I'm practicing having the courage act authentically even when it means letting go of my habitual need to please. It's a commitment I've taken on but don't always know how to pursue. Obviously, I can't comment on every stupid comment on Facebook. I almost never comment on the political posts that I disagree with, no matter how strongly I disagree. But about a year ago, a political joke was circulating that I thought was so incredibly offensive that I couldn't believe that my friends--people I loved and admired--were perpetuating it. I never said anything and ever since, I've wished I had. I know that I wimped out. I didn't speak up because I knew people were "just kidding" and because I didn't want my own views to be exposed and because I didn't want to be perceived as self-righteous. I was wrong.
Still, I'm not sure what is the right thing to do. It's gotten to a point that, except for a public forum like Facebook, almost no one says really offensive things in front of me--whether it's my gender or my age or the role I play or some kind of personal authority or all of the above, I don't know. But I can remember more occasions than I can count when I didn't say anything or said something weak and ineffective or talked to the person privately later, after I had a chance to collect my thoughts, leaving the public impression that I agreed with what was said. I've learned now that if I can't think of what to say, I can say "I see that differently." No one ever asks me how I see it differently so I'm off the hook, although sometimes I would welcome the conversation. And obviously, just because I think something is inherently offensive doesn't mean that it is.
So what do you do? Do you speak up and say what you think, even when you know it would inject controversy? Do you see that as a good thing--"the marketplace of ideas"--or do you see yourself as an "enlightener of others?" Do you wimp out and wish you hadn't? Do you consider that your own views are just that--your own views--and keep them to yourself? Come on, hit the comment button and speak up about speaking up!