Silence does not serve unity; it preserves the injustice of inequality.
This is one of my favorite lines from Unladylike, a book I wrote as a response to the stubborn existence of Christianized discrimination that is pervasive in many faith tribes.
Women know how to be silent. Contrary to popular myth, women do know how to keep our mouths shut and our dissent to ourselves. We are expert at cultivating unity and promoting harmony in the spheres we find ourselves in. Ask any woman who’s raised toddlers!
There is a wisdom in silence. No doubt about that. Like the time I chose to not say a word when our small group was told to implement a popular curriculum for a church wide program meant to make us contagious Christians. I held my tongue and opinion on that one as it seemed best to just go along with the program and endure what would surely fizzle out.
There was wisdom in that (wasn’t there?) to keep agreeable since so many other people found the curriculum helpful. I just wasn’t one of them.
That’s a good kind of silence in my opinion. A silence that won’t be broken for pettiness.
Silence can be golden.
Then there’s the other kind of silence, the kind that would keep a woman in her place, trapped in a role no matter how oppressive it is to her person. I call this an unholy silence. It is not for piety sake that this kind of silence is practiced; it is for the sake of protecting the safe and the familiar. I know much about this kind of silence for I practiced it for close to two decades. I rejected the complementarian view a long time ago. But I stayed in the closet about it. I kept silent out of a sense of preserving unity amongst my brothers and sisters. I did want to create division, which I knew that the issue of women and equality in the church is controversial and divisive. I did not want to be a corrupting force to the beauty of unity in the churches I ran with. So I hid it, like a flashlight under the covers, I kept my beliefs about women and equality below the radar. I knew how to be silent. The church had taught me well.
I knew how to be silent. The church had taught me well.
It took a well-timed conversation with a group of women who unknowingly spoke into my life by their Speaking Up and Speaking Out. Their outspoken disagreement with the unfair treatment of women in the church was a spark to the dry timber of my conscience. Storytelling is such a powerful force of change. (This is one of the biggest reasons I host Women’s Listening Parties.… so we listen to each other’s stories in order to discover our own story).
My story was that I mistook silence as a virtue in order to preserve unity. True in many cases, far from true in the case of injustice and oppression. In trying to avoid being divisive, I ended up a woman with a divided heart and soul.
Now I’m no longer silent. One of my missions while I’m on this planet is to Tell it True, Tell it Strong for women and for myself. I never again want to live in the closet with my unholy silence. It would be a disservice to the sisterhood if I did, for it was outspoken women who helped liberate me from a distorted view of staying quiet.
What unholy silences have you broken?