Reflections on Having A Voice

Ok… maybe more of a rambling.

The idea of ‘having a voice’ is one that has surfaced in conversation quite a bit recently. The facets of the conversation are too many to cover in one post about the subject, and I can’t even promise a consistent series on the subject. As thoughts surface however, I do hope to capture a few of the nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives and the like to put down the high level concepts we are exploring.

Over the years, I’ve had opportunity to walk with and through situations with folks where conversations needed to take place… understanding needed to be reached… needs needed to be made known. All the basics that we hope our children leave kindergarten with. However… quite often, we reach adulthood handicapped in these elementary skills, and it leads to all kinds of dysfunction.

When relationships are broken… and separation has become the norm, the situation is a bit like scrambled eggs. If they are good and wisped together, it’d be a difficult undertaking to make sense out of the individual whites and yolks again.

What the two people in conflict need most in this situation is someone who is a ‘non-interested third party’ to come and help sort things out. Letting each person have their own voice, with really no agenda other than to hear and be heard… understanding and some level of agreement/disagreement can follow.

This is a delicate moment in the life of a relationship, because so often… things did not get ‘this bad’ overnight… and they are not going to get fixed overnight. It’s a delicate collision, and so much is hanging in the balance.

Several obstacles will immediately surface in such a crisis:

The back story of the crisis will be ignored in light of one person’s most recent sin. And if the sin is a doozy, then it is going to be very tempting to put the weight of the broken relationship completely on the back of the most recent scarlet letter. You will typically run into this scenario with aggressive people who do not have the skills to sit back and simply say, ‘I’m sorry…’ and then let it be. There could always be an ‘I’m sorry… but…’.

‘Handling’ a crisis is always easier when there is someone to blame.

One of my biggest frustrations as a pastor was the ability for even members of the church to point the finger at the woman who fell into the arms of adultery without trying to understand what led her heart to feel that abandoned in the first place. If repentance and salvation is going to be found, it will need to dive into the backstory to discover where the two people fell.

Often times… it doesn’t get there.

Friends are brought in as counselors. Folks who are not trained in the art of reconciliation are not qualified to help a couple ‘unscramble the eggs’ of a relationship in conflict. It’s really a disservice to everyone involved to expect them to carry that kind of weight. Unless they are willing and able to sit and mediate from the fringe, what you are going to find is that the weight of the crisis will cause them to think that they need to choose sides… and when that happens, someone is not going to be heard. A false authority is going to be given to the ‘interested third party’ as someone who ‘knows us both… and only wants the best.’ There may be some truth to that… but when patience runs out, someone is going to feel the pressure of being forced into a decision… and true repentance will not take place. Only a temporary band aid… again.

Someone’s voice is lost. Once the backstory loses its value… and friends begin to choose sides… the person who needs to be heard will feel as if they are on the outside of a crisis looking in on themselves.

Confused about their feelings from past hurts.

Ignored by ‘friends’ who have more advice than they do presence.

There is always the ‘right’ thing to do… and while ‘how difficult the situation is’ will be left on the table… many people do not have the stamina to push through a situation with others, and will look for a ways to build a bridge over it instead. As the voiceless one, it is as if you are standing against the currents of a stream that is trying to keep you from getting to the other side… all the while, looking overhead at the onlookers standing on the bridge. There may be pity in their eyes at first, but in time you will be looked on with contempt because you didn’t choose to ‘get over it’… but rather to ‘get through it.’

Your struggle becomes the vindication needed by those who need someone to blame. Those who may on any other day wear t-shirts of grace, or bumper stickers of mercy… will quickly adopt the doctrine of Karma believing that someone is getting what they deserve. It’s human nature, I suppose.

As the voiceless one… it begins to make sense to just go quiet… get off the grid if you will. The silence will send the naysayers into a tail spin because there is no melodramatic response coming from you… but, eventually, your silence will be used against you as the straw man of your character is built and then torn down again… and again… and again…

In the moments that you do decided to speak, you find that there are those who are watching and listening… ready to pounce and pick apart anything that you have to say.

It’s all very interesting.

So… the lessons from todays ramblings are simple. When you are with someone in crisis… whether it be their own doing, or the results of someone else’s doing, keep it simple:

  • Listen to the whole story… not just the most visible parts.
  • Don’t get in the middle… a friend in the middle is attempting to be a chef unscrambling eggs.
  • Always let someone have their voice… it’s the easiest thing to rob someone of… resist the temptation.

What say you?

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One comment

  1. Robert Alan Rife · December 23, 2013

    Um. Wow. And…thanks. Silence in conflict is the worst violence of all.

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