Speak Truth – Even If Your Voice Shakes

One of my favorite quotes has always been one by the activist Maggie Kuhn:

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.”

Kuhn was known for her work against age discrimination. A self-proclaimed “little old lady,” she was speaking up about elderly rights until just two weeks before her death at the age of 89.

She said a lot and I don’t presume to stand in her shoes. But in my mind, I’ve often edited this phrase to fit my circumstances. When I recall this quote – sometimes as a self-assuring mantra to myself – I hear:

Speak truth – even if your voice shakes.

Speaking your mind, being heard and refusing to be invisible, are all things I value. But before you speak your mind, it may be helpful to reflect on what fills it. Think about what you think: How much of what we think is still captive to structural injustice? How much of our “normal” behavior and thinking contributes to systemic violence?

To speak truth requires that we acknowledge our limitations and accept responsibility for our part in the injustice. To speak truth requires us to examine our power, privilege, interests and abilities as it relates to those who have no voice. It begs the question, what has my privilege blinded me to? Where has my interest been for comfort and apathy instead of vulnerability and true compassion?

Ignorant folks are always saying what’s on their mind. But to speak truth requires radical self-reflection and it is much more difficult than simply speaking your mind.

I hope we all find the space and the strength to be vulnerable and compassionate and to speak truth – even if your voice shakes.

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