I Am Done with Being Quiet.

I walked in the door of my apartment last night and the smell of natural gas struck me like a gale force wind.

Matt was sitting at the kitchen table, laptop open and earphones half on, working on music stuff.

“Babe! Can’t you smell that?!” I exclaimed.

“What?”

“Gas! It’s so strong!” I exclaimed. I ran over to the oven and opened the door, listening for the tell-tale hiss of gas leaking from the valve, but there was no sound. All the burners on the stove worked. I ran to the patio door and wrenched it open for fresh air, the bitter windchill swooping across the living room.

I called the customer service line for our apartment complex, who called the maintenance guy, who didn’t show up for 45 minutes. At 30 minutes I gave up waiting and called the fire department, who sent a crew over to inspect our building. The maintenance guy turned them away at the door before he or they had even inspected my apartment. He stomped in wearing heavy workman’s boots, claimed he couldn’t smell anything but if there was a smell, it was just sealant fumes from cleaning out the apartment below us. He shut off the gas line to my stove “just in case” and left, saying he’d back to check sometime tomorrow.

The gas smell hung in the air as Matt and I stood there, worried, hungry because we hadn’t eaten dinner, and furious at the maintenance guy’s cavalier and arrogant attitude.

After a sturdy pep-talk from my dad over the phone, I called the fire department again.

“Yeah, that shouldn’t have happened,” said the chief over the phone, apologizing profusely for the confusion. His crew came back and did a proper inspection, which revealed nothing, though they acknowledged the smell.

“You had every right to call us,” said one short, balding fireman as the crew walked out the door. “And you call us again if you smell it tomorrow after your maintenance guy ‘checks’ it.”

On the one hand, the whole two-hour affair was a waste of time. But then again, at least I knew for sure that there was no gas leak now. And at least I knew that whatever happened after that, I had a whole fire department willing to help me take care of it.

I sent the email and waited, staring at the screen, as a sick feeling settled in my gut. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent that. Maybe I was stepping outside my bounds. Maybe it wasn’t on my authority to address this.

I clicked anxiously from email inbox to email inbox, to twitter and facebook, to the article and back again, checking my phone intermittently for text messages.

No notifications, no responses. The minutes passed and I began to doubt myself. This isn’t my business. I shouldn’t care.

But I did care.

I cared deeply, even if all the reasons and the words weren’t fully formed in my thoughts yet. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Awhile later, my phone chirped as an email hit my inbox.

“Thank you, friend,” it said. “Thank you for raising this issue and asking the question. We’re pulling the article. We want you to know that you can always come to us with your concerns.”

It wasn’t until I read those words that I realized what I had been anxious about all that time, what I am afraid of most when I raise my voice or speak out my fear : that someone will tell me to shut up and stop asking questions, stop making trouble because there’s nothing wrong here.

To know me is to know my deep and visceral sense of justice. There are a whole manner of things that I can attribute to this – my birth order as an oldest child and only girl, my conservative evangelical upbringing, my inherited stubbornness from two very articulate and opinionated parents. Part of it is just who God made me as an INFJ and Type 4; I find that as a creative person I am constantly weighing my intuition with the world around me, and this incites a lot of questions and an insatiable desire for truth.

But this visceral, intuitive and discerning part of myself got me into trouble a lot growing up. I learned that I argued too much, asked too many questions, got too angry, and blatantly disrespected the authority figures in my life – my parents, my teachers, my elders at church, the older and “holier” student leaders in my youth group.

Most of what I’ve known of authority is the kind that squelches doubt and questioning, the kind that equates criticism with trouble-making and disrespect, the kind that perpetuates shame and isolation, the kind that creates “did” versus “did not” dynamics, the kind that uses fear to motivate obedience.

I’ve watched quietly as the blogosphere has begun delving into issues of sexism, modesty, purity, rape culture, power dynamics, and sexual ethics. I share links and comment on threads, encourage others to speak up, but I haven’t been able to really speak up myself, and I’ll be honest,

I’m quiet because I’m not sure of my authority on the issues.

I’m quiet because I don’t know if I am a feminist. I don’t know if I am a complimentarian. I’m learning good theology, but I know that I’m no theologian. I know I’m no prophet.

And before now, I had not considered myself a victim to abuse. But the weight of these discussions have helped me recognize my own baggage and begin to unpack it. And here is what I’m learning :

Questioning my own authority is the result of abusive power dynamics.

Telling myself not to care because I’ll get too angry or it’s not my business is a repercussion of false authority.

False authority misappropriates power for itself, but healthy authority empowers the voices of its people to use discernment, find truth, embrace justice, bring healing.

If the people around us, in our work places, in our schools, in our homes, in our faith communities have told us to stop asking questions, then it is not a safe place to be. And those are the places that I’ve found myself silent, unable to ask questions, unable to speak truth and value and love to the people that needed it, unable to raise concern when I discerned that something wasn’t right.

But being concerned with something I find incongruous is not the same as being needlessly angry, and I’m tired of being labeled as such.

A healthy faith, a healthy sexual ethic, a healthy balance of power leaves room for questions, is not threatened by them, and makes no claim to have all the answers. And it certainly doesn’t silence or ignore its followers.

I’m still discerning what this means for me, for my faith, for my voice and for my writing. I know that I won’t always be loud or prophetic or theologically perfect, but I do know this :

I am done with being quiet.

[Image.]

  • BrennaDA

    Bethany, so much of this feels like you pulled it from my head…..I get this so much (and I am so glad you hit publish!).

    That feeling of not knowing if you have authority on something and it keeps you quiet? I struggle with that on a daily basis.

    And I will tell you this…what you wrote here? I hear whispers of the prophetic all through it. Keep writing – we need your unquiet voice.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thank you, sweet friend. I feel a lot of times like you and I are on the same wavelength with how and when we process things. It means so much knowing I’m not alone in that struggle! We need your unquiet voice as well. Much love!

  • Joel

    Thank you for posting this. It really resonated with me, and I know it wasn’t an easy thing to put out there. Be brave, be honest, and don’t be quiet. :)

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thanks, friend!

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    you’re absolutely right that environments discouraging questions and requiring unwavering support of authority are unsafe. keep raising your voice. you have as much right as any–and honestly, sometimes more if you’ve been silenced up to this point. we need you.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      thanks so much, suzannah. your encouragement means a lot to me!

  • http://www.stillforming.com/ Christianne

    Bethany,

    Thank you for this. It speaks my experience, too. I really get that fear of speaking up because of the anticipated response that people will tell me to shut up and stop asking questions — dynamics that have ingrained in me that I’m not allowed to have a perspective, an opinion, or a voice.

    When you called this out as an abusive power dynamic … whoa. I’d never thought of it in those terms. I’m going to have to spend some time with that, letting it sink in.

    I’m so glad you spoke up. xo

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I totally get how you feel, Christianne. I have been really hesitant to articulate it in terms of abuse. I’m always sheepish of calling things abusive or oppressive because I don’t want to pretend my experience is on the same level with the oppression and abuse others have suffered, especially victims of sexual violence, racial oppression and the like.

      BUT, it IS wrong that I was taught not to trust myself, to stop using my questions and my voice, especially since I’ve realized that these power dynamics and ideologies DID directly oppress others. If I hadn’t been told to doubt myself and blindly trust these authorities, how would things have been different for my relationships to my peers? What kind of baggage could I have kept myself from taking on?

      When we admit that we have been at the mercy of an abusive power dynamic, we aren’t just talking in terms of ourselves, but in how our actions and choices reverberate and cause more hurt for everyone else that needed our voice.

      That’s kind of a long tangent, but those are the points that pushed me to call abuse what it is, when I wanted to cower away from that. Thanks for reading and commenting, Christianne!

  • http://twitter.com/profligatetruth Caleigh Royer

    I feel like you wrote exactly what I’ve been fighting with for the past few months. Thank you for writing this out and being done with being quiet! It makes such a difference to know that there are other people who are willing to step up and say this is not okay, and I have a voice. <3

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      You have a voice, Caleigh! I know it must be so hard for you to speak out about the ways that you have been hurt and silenced, but I appreciate your voice and truth. Keep speaking – we are listening and speaking along with you!

      • http://twitter.com/profligatetruth Caleigh Royer

        thank you for the reminder. :-)

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com/ Danielle | from two to one

    Brava, Bethany. Thank you so much for having the courage to hit “publish” and share your thoughts and struggles. We are not authorities on all things, but we each are called to use our voices and talents and stories to glorify God. I believe you did that with this piece. Thank you.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thank you so much, friend. I’m learning so much from you!

  • Deanna D.

    Bethey, I needed to hear this. While I’m not a “quiet” person by anyone’s standards, I often allow things to go unsaid or don’t question authority because I do feel like I’m being put back in my safe little box that the “powers that be” can control me in. The minute I start stepping out of the box and doing things that make them uncomfortable or aren’t in their plan, I get shut down. Every time. And I used to push back, but I’ve stopped because it’s too painful. In fact, I don’t even leave my box anymore. But maybe it’s time to realize that my ministry with my teens needs to be taken out of the box, even if it goes against the way things have always been done. Thank you for always being an encouragement in your writing. Love you and miss you!

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Deanna, I think that is such an important point about your ministry with your teens. I think that you have a lot more authority to decide what that ministry looks like than your “elders” and fellow ministry leaders want to give you credit for, and that may mean ministering to your kids outside of church walls. That’s not to say that you should subvert authority or do things in secret, but finding ways to speak truth to them beyond the church’s natural limits is important. Break free of your box, friend. It’s too important not to, for your kids and for yourself. Love you, friend.

  • http://twitter.com/jetbloom Julia Tindall Bloom

    Right on.

    Recovering fundamentalist pastor’s daughter and lifelong “good girl” here. I started to practice “speaking up” a few years ago, and you know what I discovered? Most people love me anyway, whether we agree or not.

    And when I speak up, there is often a “me too” or a “you mean I’m not the only one?” response from people who have kept quiet. The more that each of us decides to be done with being quiet, the more we will build an honest and healthy community (note, I did not say conflict-free!) around us.

    You go girl :)

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    So much wisdom here, Bethany. I’m glad you’re speaking up. Even though I’m a fellow INFJ and 4, and even though I was raised in a similarly conservative background, I don’t recall people trying to silence me. Or rather when people did, I tended to move on. While there’s much my parents and I don’t agree on, I’m grateful they let me continue to ask questions in those formative days. I hadn’t thought about questioning our own authority in terms of abusive power dynamics but you’re absolutely right. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about authority in terms of myself at all but what you wrote about healthy authority? That absolutely nails my intentions with my own writing. I want people to feel empowered and encouraged when they read my words. I see that your writing, too.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I totally understand where you’re coming from with this, Leigh. I really wrestled writing this post because in a lot of ways because I fear that it paints an overwhelmingly negative picture, even though I had a really positive, healthy upbringing in many ways. And I do consider myself pretty opinionated and outspoken on some things, and there are certainly people in my life that mentored me and encouraged me to be outspoken in my faith.

      I love my church, I love my family – my writing and my faith wouldn’t be the same without their guidance. However but through all the blog discussion about the topics of sexual ethics, modesty, and gender equality in particular, I’m recalling a lot red flags and alarming trends that bothered me as a young adult but I didn’t feel comfortable confronting, and that silenced my peers from talking about their struggles.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, friend. I hope, like you, that my writing empowers, too.

      • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

        I didn’t think it painted an overwhelmingly negative picture. Not at all. I hope you didn’t infer that from my response. Given the similarities in our personality styles and probably upbringings, I was rather surprised not to remember more people trying to silence me. This doesn’t mean I’ve always spoken up when I should or that I don’t still have room to grow. I’m still untangling the messages I received in the past, the poor theology, the red flags. It’s good to really think through and remember what was, instead of the more convenient narrative. You inspire me.

  • http://twitter.com/AccidentalDevo Abby Norman

    Don’t count yourself out as a prophet quite yet. I see you speaking truth and beauty into existance here. In order to be prophetic about the world, I think some of us have to first be prohetic about ourselves. Look at you speaking light into darkness.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      “In order to be prophetic about the world, I think some of us have to first be prophetic about ourselves.”

      That is so true, Abby. Thank you for pointing that out, and thank you for your encouragement!! :)

  • http://redemptionpictures.com/ Micah @ Redemption Pictures

    Yes! I was raised conservative/fundamentalist too, and so much of “authority” was designed to protect itself, not protect others. Real authority creates a safe place to share your voice, like you said. It doesn’t squelch it.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      “so much of ‘authority’ was designed to protect itself, not protect others.”

      AMEN, Micah. You hit the nail on the head with your words. You said it even better than I did in 1100 words, I think!!

  • http://twitter.com/HeyAileen Hey, Aileen.

    It took me a long time to figure out that there’s a difference between having a differing opinion and having an argument, and that grace is not only found in quiet, or even acceptance. Love you, friend. Let’s ask a million questions together, yes?

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      YES to all of this. Love you, too.

  • http://twitter.com/Douglas_AmongUs Douglas H.

    “Questioning my own authority is the result of abusive power dynamics.”

    Wow, get out of my head. It’s just as true for me and how I hold myself back so constantly. Thanks for writing this.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thanks, Douglas! So glad it resonated with you!

  • Emily_Maynard

    Well done, B. I’m so looking forward to the steps you take after this very bold one. There’s space for your voice here.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thanks, Em. Your voice is helping people like me find our own, so a huge portion of this process is all thanks to you. Xoxo.

  • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

    “Most of what I’ve known of authority is the kind that squelches doubt and questioning,
    the kind that equates criticism with trouble-making and disrespect, the kind that perpetuates shame and isolation, the kind that creates “did” versus “did not” dynamics, the kind that uses fear to motivate obedience…

    …Questioning my own authority is the result of abusive power dynamics.”

    YES. So happy to know I’m not alone in breaking out of this mold I had no idea was cast around me until recently. Thank you for speaking up and being bold. Confronting things is never easy but, as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      That’s such a great quote, Christy, and the heart of what I’ve been struggling with. I think the faith culture that I grew up in gave me the impression that if it “wasn’t my business,” I needed to leave it alone – or worse – that it was only my business if I was perfect and without fault. There was a lot of confusion about what sin and authority actually were, and how to handle them, and the take-away for me was that I should take myself out of the conversation. There were a lot of things I wish I could have spoken up about, but I was taught not to question it instead. Thanks for reading and commenting, friend.

  • http://katiemaesdailies.blogspot.com/ Katie Alicea

    Wonderful post, Bethany! Thank you for being brave and posting this. :) I’m in INFJ as well and can relate to you and how you are feeling in so many ways. Throughout my life I have volleyed between keeping my feelings, questions, and thoughts inside to saying them as loudly and as often as I could. There are many amazing people in my life that have encouraged me to speak how I truly feel, but unfortunately, there have been far too many people that are inconvenienced, upset, and offended by my inability to keep quiet and carry on. Some of them quieted me slowly by taking a little bit of my voice away one chip at a time, and some of them with screaming and threats.
    I want to be able to express who I truly am, questions and all, without getting lost in a see of doubt and questions that take me away from the shore of trust and faith. I want to be able to speak out against the injustices that I see around me and do so in a way that brings reconciliation and not division.
    This is where I am now. I am done being quiet, but I don’t want my feelings, questions, and thoughts to drown out that small place left in me that wants so badly to just trust and be still.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      I really resonate with the your relationship experiences, Katie. I really struggled as I wrote this post because on the one hand, all of this is true, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have wonderful mentoring relationships growing up, or that I don’t love the church I was raised in. But there were certain relationships and circumstances that, though they have been forgiven, still need processing on my part. They’re the negative voices in my head that I will spend a lifetime rooting out. Sometimes that means speaking out, and sometimes that means being still and trusting God to give me help. I get your struggle on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your heart with me, Katie!

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    wow. You have said so much here & I can see why you were nervous. I so applaud you! Not only did you use your voice but you encouraged me to use mine…you brought someone else up too, that’s commendable! I think it’s a thing of beauty how you are coming into your own and realizing the value of your voice and the wisdom God has given you. I’m there with you, sis & will probably always feel that nagging lie of the enemy “your not good enough/smart enough/authoritattive enough, etc.” but will fight it! And I feel empowered everytime someone steps forward & says “hey! I will too! I’ll battle those lies too!” snaps & kudos.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Your post for A Deeper Story helped me get to this point, Grace. I don’t know that I would have written or published this if I hadn’t read your piece on Monday. The hesitancy and tension we feel in issues like this are all things God can use to teach each other, and I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know!” Thanks for reading and being such an encouragement, friend. Much love!

  • Stacey Olson

    I loved this so much. I struggle with the same thing a lot of the time. I love where you said, “If the people around us, in our work places, in our schools, in our homes, in our faith communities have told us to stop asking questions, then it is not a safe place to be.” The church I grew up in communicated that asking questions wasn’t okay. They communicated that asking questions meant you didn’t have faith. I felt ashamed for a long time because I’m the type of person to analyze everything and ask a lot of questions. I’m learning the same thing as you. To stop being quiet. I’m learning that God isn’t scared of our questions. Thank you again!

  • Loren

    this was so good for my soul. thanks for the reminder. and for being courageous, so as to spur others on to courage and truth and freedom.

  • laura @ hollywood housewife

    This is excellent.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Thank you, Laura. :)

  • http://www.graciousgaze.com/ gracious_gaze

    I love this — you put it so well, and I deeply resonate. I’ve long thought my heart for justice was both my biggest weakness and greatest strength. (But isn’t that typical for that mischievous holy spirit?) ;) xo

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  • http://nowthinkaboutit.com/ EnnisP

    Hey Bethany,

    Spot on but would add one thing to what you’ve said. I don’t know if conservative churches started it or adopted it but abusive power dynamics was a a part of the broader culture too.

    I wasn’t raised in a conservative church setting, but my parents – very shallow and occasional presby’s – had the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard. They were also a little hard handed when we spoke up. We learned two things. Keep quiet and to believe our thoughts were seriously flawed.

    It’s interesting that when I did find my way in conservative church circles the philosophy and effect were the same.

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  • Matt

    Excellent article! We should always be respectful, but being respectful doesn’t mean that we just roll over for an answer that we know is not right. Truth doesn’t have to run for cover or cower in the corner. Too often, those who desire power for it’s own purpose and have a misunderstanding of true, biblical authority, will use fear tactics to stomp out opposition. We have experienced this first hand from our former church and are still recovering from it. For anyone who may have similar experiences, I recommend the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse,” which speaks at lenght about this topic, as well as other.

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