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Speak Out!

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Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers movement in 1971.

Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers movement in 1971.

Sister Mary Navarre OP, Author, Teacher, Poet, Speaker.

Sister Mary Navarre OP, Author, Teacher, Poet, Speaker.

A Talent for Speaking

 An ancient Chinese saying gives this advice: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open mouth and remove all doubt.” This may have been good advice in ancient China, medieval monasteries or our family of origin; it is decidedly not true today. It is not a Talent for Living in Community. Silence as a technique to avoid conflict or purchase peace, leads to resentment, passive-aggressive behavior and tension.

Speaking up, speaking out, takes courage and is a talent for living in an interdependent community of adults. It needs to be practiced since most of us did not grow up in families or in a society that excelled in transformative conversations built on mutual respect and compassion.

In an article in the January 4, 2010 issue of  America Magazine, titled “Conversation Peace,” Ann Garrido and Sheila Heen list seven practices to build community. Three are listed here for our consideration:  

1. Be genuinely curious; sincerely ask the other to help you understand.

2. Transform emotions by compassion; emotions are just that and are neither good nor bad; recognize them,  give them time and space and then use them with grace and patience to get at deeper issues and insights.

3. Engage the internal voice – go deeper; what’s beneath the surface issue? Does irritability mask depression or fatigue? Does over-control cover fear of chaos?

Conflict resolution and community building have a much better chance when two adults sit down together, when both are rested and calm, for a deeper level of conversation than could hap­pen in a hallway or passing one another in the kitchen. If we greet each other with compassion and genuine interest, if we assume good intentions and desire constructive coexistence, we can expe­rience the reward of authentic adults living in right relationships with each other, all creation and God.

Perhaps such risk was not an ancient Chinese custom, but it can be ours today and it is worth it. There is nothing to lose except tension, loneliness and conflict and everything to gain – a life giving community of adults, who cherish each other, working together to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.

Words to live by:

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes" (Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers movement, whose mission is to "work for social and economic justice and peace for all people."

“Let us each lay aside falsehood and speak the truth to one another, for we are members of one body. At sunset let us not be nursing grudges” (Ephesians 4:25-26).

This is the second in a series of eight brief reflections written by Sister Mary Navarre, OP. A long-time teacher and thought-provoking poetic writer, Sister Mary is a member of the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids.

submitted by: Rosemary M. Steers - Communications Specialist

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