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Don't Tell Me To Be Quiet Author: Sonja Meyrer, CPRC

Updated: Apr 7

A few weeks ago, on a particularly frigid winter day, I threw on my jammies, set some logs in the fireplace and curled up on the sofa, alone. My afternoon plans did not involve other people because I was going to watch a movie that

no one in my orbit would want to join me for. You see, my “people” gravitate toward action, adventure, and comedy. They want to be entertained, uplifted and feeling better about the world when the credits roll. The slow-paced, artistic film I had selected about women in a religious colony titled “Women Talking” would surely not make their cut - even if it had received an Academy Award!

For the next two hours, as the wind howled, and the wood crackled, I sat completely mesmerized by the beautiful images and the tender dialogue that took place between the handful of women who were grappling with a situation too difficult for most of us to imagine. Drawn into a world I knew very little about, I wanted desperately to get to know these simple but thoughtful heroines a little better. They were openly wrestling with enormous questions of faith, eternity, violence, gender roles, voicelessness, and power. Some of the women were angry and defiant, some more practical and realistic. They yelled, cried, smoked, prayed, sang, and listened to each other in the midst of their pain. Young and old, they encouraged each other to share their opinions and their experience, remaining focused on their deepest desire to protect their children and still be aligned with God’s will.

As they pondered their future, I could not help but think about the frustration and pain caused by their voicelessness in the greater community. Had they been allowed to express their outrage at the harm being inflicted upon them, to share their perspectives and experiences or even just to speak the truth without fear of repercussions, how different the outcome might have been. Instead, they were forced to work through their own fears and pain and consider severing themselves from the colony and the families they loved.

Silencing others is a technique not reserved for religious groups like the one in this film. It happens in our own families and communities as well. We can be prone to shut other people down because we:

· want to control a particular narrative at all costs

· are embarrassed by someone else’s words or ideas and see them as a reflection of our own self-worth

· fear a loss of control in a power-struggle

· esteem ourselves more highly than other people

· are tired, frustrated or unhappy with our own lives

I should pause to say that most of us have indulged in these kinds of behaviors from time to time. Sometimes we openly and overtly “shush” someone by refusing to listen to them or simply telling them to be quiet. A child who has been whining for 15 minutes might be told to zip it. A colleague who drones on and on about their misfortunes might be asked to stop. A parent who continually belittles us might be asked to leave.

But occasionally losing our temper or setting healthy boundaries around someone else’s unacceptable behavior is not the same thing as habitually stifling someone’s voice or exerting our dominance in a way that diminishes their worth. Consider the impact of these other techniques:

· ridiculing, shaming, gossiping

· withholding love and affection