Perhaps you can help me out with a question that I’m struggling to answer.
I’m trying to figure out… how to “Speak my Truth”… whether on this blog… or in my books and courses… or art… of life in general… but I’m not entirely sure what speaking my truth actually means.
I’m probably over thinking again… but perhaps you can help me understand this process better.
Let me tell you how it started.
A while back, I read this quote on the Free Your Kids Facebook Page:
“You have wonderful ideas. Ideas change the world and implementing them in your own life is a step to a better tomorrow. But consider the possibility of opening your mouth and letting your message flow. You may be mocked. They may talk about you behind your back. Eyes will be rolled. But you’re planting seeds.
Seeds don’t germinate immediately. The first time any of us was exposed to a new idea, a new way, a different paradigm, we probably rejected it out of hand. But the seed had been planted. Weeks, months, even years later, we encountered that idea again. And it didn’t seem as freaky. Our brains had acclimated to the new information. After further exposure, we began independent research. The idea began to seem less insane. It seemed, dare I say, almost plausible.
Plant those seeds. You may never see them bloom. You may never see those lovely flowers. You may never sit in that garden yourself. But maybe your children or grandchildren will. We change the world by changing one mind at a time. By touching one heart at a time. By planting one seed at a time”.
Now… I must confess… when I first read this, I loved it.
I resonated with the process that the quote described… how change came gradually.
Let me use the whole homeschooling / unschooling thing as a case-in-point.
Not too long ago, I was the parent who strongly believed that homeschooling was only for paranoid, fearful, uber-religious people. And I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as “unschooling” (and I would have been horrified if I did know).
When Morgan was small, I was firm and resolute in my beliefs: Morgan would go to public school… just as I had… just as my parents had… just as everyone else had.
But… somewhere along the line, a seed was planted – and I can’t even tell you exactly where. It could have been the shitty pre-school she attended. It could have been the fact that “normal school” just seemed to make less and less sense. It could have been the fact that I had utterly resented my own schooling – and I started questioning whether school had actually taught me anything (other than the basics of reading and counting).
It could have been a conversation with somebody. It could have been the fact that I was disturbed by how much Morgan was conforming… and trying so hard to “fit in” with other children at her pre-school. It could have been the stupid rules she began parrot-fashioning…
Changing my mind about the schooling thing was a process. A slow process. There was lots of reading… research… and deep, intense discussions with Nick – and eventually, other families… who had taken that route.
But here’s the thing that… I dunno… eats at me a bit (about the quote above)…
Did somebody else plant the seed that led to me educating my kids differently? Was it a person (like a persistent evangelist who keeps sticking “Repent!” flyers on our gate) that planted-the-seed that eventually convinced me to reconsider my outlook on school?
I don’t know. I have my doubts.
I don’t know if anybody planted a seed… and besides, the whole seed-planting thing sounds a bit creepy to me. It reminds me of the days when I was a dogmatic Christian and believed I was “Right”… and everyone else was “Wrong”. Back then, I was big on evangelising… and believed that we could “convert” people – or change their minds (usually using fear as a weapon: “Where will YOU go when you die?” was a firm favourite).
“If people are only good because they fear punishment and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed” – Albert Einstein
Let’s just say that the Heather of today isn’t particularly enamoured with the idea of converting people… or convincing people… or trying to change the minds of people.
Actually – I’m not even sure whether it’s possible for me to change someone else’s mind…
I think people change their own minds… I don’t think their minds are changed *for* them by someone else.
So… while I am rather reluctant to “plant seeds”… or “change people’s minds”… I still think that there is a place – and a need – for connecting… and discussing… and questioning… and challenging… and inspiring.
And that’s what I’m interested in.
When Nick and I first took the big step of NOT enrolling our daughter into Grade 1… it was a scary – and lonely – place to be.
All of our friends either had children in school… or they were busy enrolling their kids in school. We didn’t have a “tribe” of fellow homeschoolers (and definitely not any unschoolers!)… and many, many times – I would question our decision… and Nick and I would ask each other: “Are we sure this is the right thing? Have we gone barking mad? Are we going to regret this further on down the line? Are we damaging Morgan by not sending her to school?”…
It was lonely. It was scary.
But… what a blissful, beautiful relief it was… to finally connect with other people (initially online connections which gradually turned into face-to-face meetings and friendships).
What a blissful relief to know this: WE ARE NOT ALONE!
There are others out there who feel the same way as us! There are others out there who are walking the same path! We’re not the only people doing this… in fact, there is a massive (and rapidly growing) movement of people… all over the world… who are re-thinking “school”… and questioning what it means to “educate” – or to be “educated”…
And what a relief it was… to discover the writings of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto (who write the kind of stuff that resonates so strongly with me) … and even the less hardcore people like Ken Robinson… or Seth Godin.
And what a relief it was to plug into a network of unschooled adults – and to watch talks like this one… which simply reaffirmed that we were okay… that we were on a path best suited for us… and that many others were walking that path too.
Part of the reason why I blog… is because I seek those kinds of connections.
And here’s the thing… I don’t just seek out connections for *me*… but I would also like to offer some inspiration and encouragement for those who still feel as though they’re walking the lonely road. I want to raise my hand and say: “Hey! You’re not alone! You’re not crazy!”…
And I can offer that place of understanding… I guess… for anyone who walks an unconventional road – who lives differently in some way.
I get the path less taken.
I understand what it’s like to live differently… and to feel so at odds with the world… and out of place… diagonally parked in a parallel universe…
And if I can be part of somebody’s tribe… and if I can offer a little space of encouragement and inspiration… for those who march to the beat of a different drum… well, let’s just say… that will make me very happy.
But… back to the “preaching” question.
I’m trying to understand where the line is drawn – as far as my honesty is concerned. I mean – how much am I really allowed to share on this blog… before I start pissing people off and sounding all “preachy” as though I’m trying to “plant seeds”… or force some kind of unwelcome indoctrination down someone’s throat?
How much do I share about my thoughts on education… without coming off as angry… and condemning… (of the choices of others)…?
How much do I rant about the Rat Race… without making somebody (who works in a corporate job and negotiates the traffic every day) feel… I dunno… unwelcome… here?
How do I… “Speak My Truth”… without shaming the choices of others?
Perhaps the very wise Brené Brown has some additional insight in her book “Daring Greatly” (the chapter is about parenting… but try to read the following quote with a broader perspective in mind):
“When you listen to conversations, or read books and blogs, about controversial and/or divisive issues in parenting, like how and where women labour, circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, feeding, etc., what you hear is shame and what you see is hurt. Deep hurt. You see people – mostly mothers – engaging in the exact same behaviours that I earlier defined as shaming: name-calling, put-downs and bullying.
Here’s what I’ve come to believe about these behaviours: You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making. Those are mutually exclusive behaviours and they create a huge values gap. Yes, most of us (myself included) have strong opinions on every one of those topics, but if we really care about the broader welfare of children, our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support other parents who are doing the same. Our job is also to tend to our own worthiness. When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.
It’s easy to put up a straw man in this argument and say, “So, we’re just supposed to ignore parents who are abusing their children?” Fact: that someone is making different choices from us doesn’t in itself constitute abuse. If there’s real abuse happening, by all means, call the police. If not, we shouldn’t call it abuse. As a social worker who spent a year interning at Child Protective Services, I have little tolerance for debates that casually use the terms abuse or neglect to scare or belittle parents who are simply doing things that we judge as wrong, different or bad”
Although Brene is talking about parenting in the quote above, I think that what she says applies to many situations.
I like the part where she says that “our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and to support (others) who are doing the same”. But, it’s a fine line… I think. I want a space to be really honest about how I feel (about a number of topics)… and sometimes, honesty involves a rant! – but, at the same time, I don’t want those rants to alienate… or shame… people who believe differently to me.
But… that said… I also don’t want to be so ridiculously watered-down and insipid… because I’m trying so desperately hard not to offend others or hurt their feelings!
“I cannot give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody, all the time” – Herbert Bayard
Where is the line drawn?
Is there a line?
Perhaps a quote by Socrates is in order:
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”
But… then again… it takes me right back to the first question: IS it my goal to “change” people? Is it my goal to “change” the world? Is it my goal to “change” people’s minds?
Or is my goal to connect with… encourage… inspire… and challenge?
And if so – how do I do that whilst remaining true to myself… but without hurting, shaming or alienating others??