In PART 1, I covered my general history of feeling rejected by my peers and how one friendship over the years has helped me to see how differences don’t need to mean division if our common ground means more.
Which brings me back to the topic of peers from my past on social media and the very present danger of my fear that they will reject me.
However, with all that’s going on in the world today, I’m realizing that if I’m going to keep following certain people from my past in the digital world, I’d like to connect on a deeper level with a few of them. It would be nice to start a dialogue, perhaps even one that begins with a disagreement, and know that after several decades of living we can be mature enough to find common ground despite our differences. Or realize we are too different and part ways amicably.
I’ve seen several people dismayed and heart broken over being “unfriended” due to controversial social issues in recent months. It’s like high school all over again, except this time it’s way more public and permanent in the digital age. The fear of rejection and what that means is more concrete than ever before. Even if my desire to rekindle an old friendship in order to understand someone with opposing views is pure, the thought of being rejected or ridiculed among her current circle of friends makes me feel like I’m fourteen again.
For one particular peer from my past, I chose not to respond to many of her posts in recent years. But when she basically called me out (not me specifically, though I wondered if it was a direct but indirect hook for people like me), I decided I would risk it.
Just because “Silence is Violence” Sounds Good, Doesn’t Mean it’s True
Within my flawed humanity, I know I am risking rejection with what I’m about to say. But I have had enough conversations with my present day peers to know I’m not alone. So I’m going to put this out there in hopes the fear of rejection will no longer keep us from being silent.
I for one am sick and tired of one perspective, one “narrative” as they call it these days, overshadowing the others and for lack of a better term, bullying those with opposing views into silence (by shunning them, cancel culture, etc. if they dare speak up), then accusing them of further atrocities because of their silence!
- Some of us have been silent because we fear rejection.
- Some of us are silent because we are still learning, observing, and deciding where we stand.
- Some of us are silent because we want to avoid conflict, want to keep our jobs, or we are confused.
- Some of us are battling hurt, anger, sorrow over friends we’ve already lost.
We are not silent because we don’t care.
For some of us, our social media silence does not mean we will not take action in some other way. This is not a black or white issue. Pun intended and not meant to be funny. The wounds from the past have not healed for many of us. Some wounds run deep and are not remedied by a clever meme.
And they are most definitely not remedied by destroying businesses, hurting strangers, or toppling the monuments of our past.
Our wounds run the gamut of colors in every hue—bold, pastel, gray, faded, black, white, and in colors that the human eye cannot see.
Flip that, and being loud doesn’t change the truth about our wounds either.
We all must make a personal choice to take our wounds and turn them into wins for our own benefit, for those around us, and for our society as a whole.
The Distinct Loudness of Silence – The Ultimate Rejection
Two days after George Floyd’s death, I’d been thinking I was ready to post something. There were so many things bothering me about what I was seeing on the news and on social media. From blacked out social media feeds to various hash-tag slogans, I was trying to understand what was happening and why, as a white woman, I felt so attacked and guilty for something I had very little knowledge of or direct experience with.
Then, feeling I had the courage to finally post something, I see a post by the former classmate who I was well aware had opposing views on nearly every social issue we’ve faced in the past five years. To summarize, she’d reposted someone else (I believe it was a black person) claiming that those of us who had been silent up to this point were playing it safe and that our “silence [had] a very distinct loudness….one that we will never forget.” And my “friend” reiterated by demanding us white people must speak up and do it loudly, or we are basically cowards.
Okay, I thought, I was about to speak up. My gamut of emotions at seeing her post spanned from guilt, to fear, to anger. How dare she decide why I was being silent and judge me for it? How could I respond in love and honesty and finally take a step to try to understand her post and people like her who took this ironic road of demanding equality while acting superior to anyone who opposed her views?
Yes, my emotions and thoughts were far too intense to respond to her at that moment.
So I slept on it and spent the better part of the next morning crafting a rather long response to her stabbing post.
I had decided it was worth risking rejection to see if she would reply in kind and be willing to start a healthy conversation. Would she reach out and try to get to know me again and not place the judgment on me she implied she would not display? But even more important, I would set aside any presumptions about her tolerated hate speech toward those who she’d said in so many words were idiots and fools for not agreeing with her many “research-based” posts and her ever-reliable “news sources”.
Set that all aside.
I never felt rejected by her when we were teenagers. Still, I felt I was taking a huge risk at rejection to reignite a friendship with someone who had opposing views. Even if it was for the purpose of finding common ground and better understanding of what she believed and why. With so many hot issues literally causing the burning of the fabric of our society to the ground, the peacemaker in me decided to trump the peacekeeper (See my 2011 post on Peacekeeper vs Peacemaker). I was willing to take a risk to understand her side better. And I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she would respond one way or another, even if it was in the form of rejection.
After all, she had at least appeared accepting of me in our awkward teen years.
So, with heart racing to the point my watch thought I was exercising, I posted my very long, yet thought out and edited response to her comment. If she was demanding I no longer keep quiet, I was prepared to give her an honest-yet-respectful earful.
My comment followed a few comments from her like-minded peers, so I was the first to truly heed her challenge to “speak up”. I mentioned that I was aware of our opposing world views, and that my adult children, husband and I had spent the better part of the evening prior discussing things such as how we’d raised our five children in Idaho and never made race a “thing”, accepting and loving all people, but were now being made to feel that was somehow wrong. We all felt torn, hurt, confused and not ready to make blanket statements or take a stand on social media. My comment was very long, but I felt the need to explain my side in detail in hopes to gain her respect and to open up the possibility of a civilized discussion. I ended my comment with these words…
… I’m open to discussing this more in a PM or even by phone, since I really want to understand your side of things … One final thought. This is bigger than anything we can sum up in a sentence or two, a box or two, or a color or two. And I for one am ready to change my heart, change my mind, and change what my hands do in order to be a part of real and lasting change! ❤”
Guess what happened?
Nope, she, of all people, responded in SILENCE!
After three days of waiting, I went back to her page, deleted my comment, and removed her from my “friends” list. I didn’t say more to her, didn’t message her privately.
To my surprise, she had rejected me by her silence and as a result spoke the lies of her narrative in the truth of her own quoted comment:
A SILENCE OF “DISTINCT LOUDNESS” THAT WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN.
Despite the sting of rejection, I will move on and am working toward a spirit of forgiveness to all who have rejected me because of my whiteness or other unseen, yet distinct differences in how I live my life.
My stories (both real and fiction) touch on many wounds. Some I’ve healed from and some I have not. Some are mine and some belong to others. Believe me when I say I am sensitive to them all. Yet, my ultimate goal is to bring those wounds to the surface, re-open them even, in a spirit of true healing and to move forward in a ways that help us all win in the end.
Yes, to my true friends out there, I still fear the rejection of my peers. But I am learning that doesn’t mean I should be silent. It means I need to be courageous and willing to speak up about the things that matter in a way that makes the most sense to me, even if you disagree.
[NOTE: In the four weeks since I drafted this post, I have been directly attacked and rejected by another peer from my past, but this person I hardly knew. I’m realizing that no matter how kind or positive I try to be, there are those who will still vilify me for nothing more than my skin color. It’s a sad state of the world we are in today, but as long as I have the freedom to write about it, I will! Hence, I am finally publishing this and the accompanying PART 1 post.]