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Spirituality Essay:

Speak Up!    ( June 2005 )

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At this year's Community Holocaust Remembrance gathering, UU Friend Jay Frankston shared his thought that the Holocaust might have been prevented if ordinary citizens had spoken up in the early days of Hitler's rule and protested the derogatory comments and minor restrictions first placed on the Jews.

The world is filled with struggling, unhappy people who, unconsciously, eke out self-esteem by putting down others and making others' lives worse. When that happens around us - when we hear others using derogatory words, showing intolerance and prejudice, or in any way reducing others' value and humanity - we can go a long way by "speaking up".

No doubt it's hard . . . our instincts are to be polite - to not confront, offend, or make waves. But when we're silent, we do them - and the world - a major disservice. Our silence implies tacit approval of those values . . . and allows the weak, hurtful person's opinions to be validated, and worse, to ferment.

A gentle, respectful letting them know that doesn't feel right can do wonders. "I'm sorry, but I feel uncomfortable with that," or whatever words feel right to you, can freeze that hurtful thought, and perhaps even, start an opening, accepting, healing process with the other.

This is hard - but important - spiritual work. What can make it easier is practicing hypothetical situations beforehand, in your mind. Imagine someone making a slur about a minority group, berating a child at the supermarket, saying why gays shouldn't be allowed to marry. How could you "speak up" . . . checking that behavior, and opening a pathway to a more open, accepting heart, for that person.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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