In my early twenties, I was pretty outspoken. I had opinions on everything and I shared them frequently with anyone who was listening or reading. Boldness was a gift I embraced. What I lacked in work ethic and discipline I made up for with exuberance and gusto. Is that everybody’s early twenties?
In my early thirties, I’ve grown quieter. I still have opinions on nearly everything– a few of them have evolved in the past decade or so. I’m still very me but it’s a quieter, very restrained version of me. I am hesitant in sharing opinions, which I realize can be mistaken for insecurity or misconstrued as being a people-pleaser. (My brother assures me the people-pleasing part of me has way more to do with my genetic make up and being Iowa nice.) I have chosen to keep thoughts and words to myself sometimes because I don’t see the point in ruffling feathers without cause. I don’t thrive on contentious debate anymore. I love discourse, but I want it to sought by both parties. There’s a level of trust needed to discuss deep things like faith and God. I haven’t trusted others with my thoughts.
I’m rediscovering a gift of using words at seminary. I’m remembering that my voice is unique and that my thoughts are valued. I’m realizing there are times when I need to breach that gate I’ve put around my brain and heart. I need to be a little bolder. It’s impossible to listen when talking, but sometimes talking is still important.
This is the thing: so far I’m good at seminary. I’ve been a little anxious about every paper, quiz and exam. I’ve felt like I’m just playing the role of grad school student and that I’ll be found out soon. Um… no. I’m actually doing this. I’m getting A’s. I’m winning. 🙂 My brain works. I’m doing this. I’m learning Greek, I’m seeing a much bigger picture of church, I’m being encouraged to speak up and share opinions. Slowly I’m coming out of my shell.
I’ll also just briefly hint on another things that’s been so good for me: being around strong females. There really is a tendency for males to speak first and louder in classes and in conversations. Not every male, obviously… but more often than not I feel like the men jump in or talk over women. This is my comfort zone. Whether it’s just the churches I’ve been in or the communities I’ve lived in, the predominant form of leadership has been very alpha male. I wonder if I haven’t been waiting for an invitation to speak. Here I’m surrounded by leaders with other attributes— “assertive” is not most highly prized, or at least not revealed in familiar ways. I love that. I love that I have a balance of male and female professors and that this institution insists on gender inclusion. It’s not mankind. It’s not “you guys.” There’s a concentrated effort to be equal. And I think that has a lot to do with my willingness to speak up and join/start a conversation. I’m being nudged to speak. I’m being encouraged.
It’s the difference between being told “It’s okay if you have an opinion; take time to figure out what you think” and “Sara, what do you think?” That’s subtle but HUGE. Being invited to share an opinion instead of being given permission to have an opinion…. like I said, it’s subtle but until Dubuque, I couldn’t put a finger on what it was that bugged me so much. I have more to write on this but unfortunately, my blogging time is up. I need to do a bit of Greek homework and some reading. I’ll leave it at this: it’s not weakness to ask others for their opinions. It’s not weakness to be quiet or to talk softly. It’s okay for males and females to be perceived as weak and it’s even okay to be weak.