Reading through my Facebook memories this morning, I saw a post from about 12 or so years ago. It said "Whatever happened to being a silent fool? I can't do dumb people and mess today." For those who have known me outside of professional settings, it's not a secret that even today, this same thought is never far from the top of my head. In non-professional settings, it's probably loudly come out of my mouth. In professional settings, it's loudly come out of my face. True story, my department heads or other "work moms" used to save me seats next to them at any kind of meeting because they knew at some point they were going to need to slide me a note to tell me to fix my face. In this virtual world, camera covers are my best friends! When I feel the eye rolls coming, I can just disappear and remind myself to fix my face.
For the month of January, my pastor is doing "Two Words of Wisdom," every weekday morning on our church Facebook page. (You should check it out! Just click here!) Today's words ... "Shut Up!" Growing up we were told we shouldn't say it, we teach our children not to but from time to time, it's a needed directive. Extremely loquacious people have always gotten on my nerves, after a while they just start sounding like that teacher on Charlie Brown. Now, it's more like social media vomit. Your whole life is on the internet and you wondering why people are in your business! So my thought from 12 years ago, still stands. Everything you think shouldn't come out of your mouth or at this point your fingertips. It's really ok that we NOT know.
But it's #FactsFriday and the fact is, I also send those back to myself and reflect on me. My Facebook memories do a really good job to remind me how much I've grown as a person over the course of time. And truth be told it's because I learned how to shut up! In fact, it was a direct order for a period of time. The lesson came because at a time that I should have been talking I chose to keep quiet. By the time I spoke, it was a hard pill for people to swallow for some, a point of almost disinterest or disbelief for others, and some variation of irony or irateness from others. None of that changed the truth of the situation, but it definitely changed what they saw. I was stressing myself out "to prove my point" and present my case. God said, "shut up." I don't even think I protested. I followed directions and everything that needed the light, the light came to it.
Here's where the targeted art comes in. I heard a story recently of a young woman who was abused by her boyfriend over the holidays. Sadly, this was not an isolated event and similar things had happened before. In asking about her well-being, one of the things that broke my heart is that she will not talk about it. It was heartbreaking because I remember the pain of being her. Being in a situation where you know things are not right but because in families at times we take on this dysfunctional mantra of "what happens in this house stays in this house" you just don't say anything, despite the fact that your house is completely dangerous and unhealthy. No one wants to air the dirty laundry. We laugh at 5-year-olds when they say things like, "my mommy didn't brush her teeth today and went to the store anyway!" And then tell them, that's a secret for your house, which it is, but we need better language for our children because then they grow into adults who don't speak about things that should be spoken about.
But I digress, for a number of years, I did not use my "shut up" properly. It's not about airing dirty laundry. It's about exposing dysfunction. In my naivety, I thought I could pray it away. It wasn't my belief in prayer that was faulty, it was that I wasn't listening for the answer. On more than one occasion before I reached the season of targeted shut up, I did not take the opportunities that were presented to talk. It was always "oh it's not that bad," or "I can deal with it" or "Man, look, I'm about to just start playing grit ball." Throwback to that Madea movie where she wore Blair Underwood's character out with that hot pot of grits and cast iron skillet! I say that in jest now, but back then it really wasn't too far from becoming reality and I don't even eat grits. So it was more so going to be an Al Green type of event with some hot grease but again I digress ...
We stay quiet for too long which leads others to believe that we've either accepted the situations and are "ok" with them or we're somehow stretching the truth of an isolated tough time. These were the perceptions in my case, and from what I read daily, there are others who fell into this category as well. The hole widens when the other party is charming, comes across as a really nice person, always pleasant, the life of the party, or is an upstanding citizen type of person. My message is two-fold:
To those who NEED to TALK - Now is NOT the time to shut up. You don't have to tell the whole world, but find the spaces that will listen to you and assist you. It may not be your family or your close friends. Don't be disheartened by that. You can always reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE(7233), the House of Ruth (1-877-988-5559), or ME - Takhia Gaither Stuckey. I'm not a counselor, (yet 😉,) but I am resourceful and good at helping others do things to help themselves. There's also your local law enforcement and non-emergency information line. Do not remain silent. You don't have to go through this alone, or anymore. It has an ending, you have to make the call.
To those who are ASKED to LISTEN - If a person comes to you with an issue surrounding abuse, please don't say to them "Oh wow he/she is so nice to me!" Or anything else along those lines about how great of a person they are or what they do. We know they're nice to you. They're nice to everyone EXCEPT us and that's the problem. If you don't have the bandwidth or capacity to engage completely, then at the very least direct them to one of the resources above. It is not your job to determine if what they're telling you is true. **Now disclaimer - Use your discernment!** There are wolves in sheep's clothing in this area as well. But remember, empty barrels make the most noise, they don't target their shut-ups. In my experience, one party has a lot to say about ALL the wrongs of the other person and appears completely blameless in the situation. The other party only says what needs to be said, unless asked for further information. And although, you may want to scream leave and immediately help them pack, unless they're ready to receive that, you'll be met with opposition. Instead of becoming frustrated, just let them know that you will be there to assist however you can when that is an option. That's a long story for another day, but while all of it at any moment can turn to imminent danger, it's going to be hard for them to leave off the break. It will almost seem dismissive. Your care and encouragement are not falling on deaf ears. They hear you, they're just not ready.
After having been the person that needed to talk but didn't and when I decided to talk it wasn't necessarily received well, I learned the art of the targeted shut up. It wasn't that I shut up to hide it anymore, I had to shut up to expose it. If you find yourself in a place where talking is becoming frustrating, take a step back and stop talking to them. KEEP talking to God. He hears you, He sees, He will direct you. One of the things my pastor said this morning "Silence can be misinterpreted but it can never be misquoted." Initially, the silence might be seen as you "getting over it." OBEY GOD, IGNORE THEM. Talk when He says to talk, don't when He says don't. You have to strengthen your faith that He will do what He does best and be God. He will provide everything you need to get through this. You are reading from living proof. (Check out Be the Overcomer, it's great for building faith!)
Everyone has a targeted shut-up. To learn how to navigate yours, make it your business during this month and any other for that matter to read the book of Proverbs and the book of James. I read the book of Proverbs every month that has 31 days, one a day. It helps me to stay focused. I would also suggest watching the movie "1000 Words." Put those things on your weekend list! And to help you as you read and study, I found a few workbooks. These are not mine, they, (and many others), are available online for free from, Bible Study Lessons.