People are often uncomfortable with speaking their minds. There are a lot of social messages in play that are designed to actually prevent us from doing so. There are often even gag orders placed upon people in positions where speaking their minds becomes socially questionable. For example, sex ed and the public school system. All it really takes is someone in a position of power who does not want the general public to know what they are actually up to and then suddenly there are terms like “fake news” thrown around in order to protect the guilty. Yet there are people in the world who, when speaking their minds, make a world of difference because they were not afraid to go there.
A great example of this was my grade 8 phys-ed teacher. I will not name him by name because I have not contacted him to get his permission on that and, frankly, I don’t actually know whether or not he is still alive. So he will be “Mr. B” for the purposes of this blog. In grade 8 part of our phys-ed program involved learning how to dance. Mr. B was adamant that dance was one of the best forms of physical activity in which one could participate. This from someone who was pure jock and who was the coach of every junior high team that was in the school. A lot of people looked up to Mr. B. I was one of those people, but I was also very intimidated by him because, well, did I mention he was pure jock? I was a geeky scrawny kid with hardly any physical skills at the time and on top of that I was extremely introverted. In fact, the only time he ever saw anything other than that from me was when we were being taught how to golf. To this day I will never understand that sport. I could not hit a ball with a club to save my life. I was getting extremely frustrated and there was, of course, one kid that was continually mocking me and jeering at me as I was trying to learn the skill. After about 50 unsuccessful swings and 49 horrible comments (Mr. B kept telling this little jerk to stop with the heckling, but the kid would not listen) I finally had had enough of the entire thing. I turned to the kid, walked right up to him with fire in my eyes and told him to shut the f#%^@ up or he would be wearing that club as a necklace. I then turned and hurled the club down the golf course…about 300 feet or so. Mr. B was very impressed and insisted that for track and field I also do the discus! But he gave me a break and told me to sit out the rest of the class.
So now on to the dance class. Before teaching us anything about moves or dance styles he assembled the girls on one side of him and the boys on the other. He then began by talking about the social aspects of dance. How historically it was used as a means of helping young people to find a mate in a controlled environment because “dating” did not exist as much as did “courting” and he explained the difference between the two. He also spoke of dance in the “performing arts” throughout history and how sometimes it was even used to connect dancers with politicians and military people so that the dancers could spy on them and gain covert information etc. The whole thing was extremely fascinating! But then he did something that, I am sure in today’s climate, could have possibly gotten him fired. He spoke his truth! He said to us that we had to also be aware that, at our age category, it would be possible that with close dances the boys might develop erections. GASP! Once the class settled down he told us that this was COMPLETELY NATURAL and that we need not be afraid of such a thing. He told the boys to not be embarrassed about it should that happen to us, but that social etiquette dictates that it would be in extremely poor form to be rubbing that against our dance partners. In other words, BE A GENTLEMAN! Then he told the girls that they are not EVER to make fun of any boy that this might happen to, but that they also needed to feel safe coming to him to report if any boy were to be crude enough to be rubbing up against them with their erection while dancing. He would then address that with said boy. With that he gave a look at the group of boys that made us all know that we definitely did NOT want to have him address that with us…EVER.
But the lesson did not just stop there. He also spoke to how difficult it is for a boy to ask a girl to dance. He encouraged the girls to know that being asked to dance is NOT being asked out on a date or being proposed to, and that dancing is something that can be enjoyed by complete strangers, and that accepting a dance invitation from a boy does not mean anything other than that they are gracious enough to accept the invitation. He also spoke to how important it might be for a boy to be accepted on that level, because her accepting a dance invitation from a boy might be the one and only thing that makes his life worth living in that moment. He encouraged the boys to not just ask the most pretty girl, or the girl who is the most physically developed to dance, but instead to look for the wall flower who is sitting alone in a corner. Because asking that girl to dance might be the one thing that would make her life worth living in that particular moment. He taught us the proper way to ask a girl to dance, and the perfect way to accept the invitation. Then he went into the styles of dance and introduced a few of them so that we could practice all those skills with which he just gifted us. That class was one that I looked forward to from that moment on, right up to the point where we were done with dance (about a month or so went by with that one) and then the next subject matter was introduced, which did not interest me that much. But during the dance module of the class I was so impressed with Mr. B’s ability to make dance something casual and comfortable for everyone. He would do little things like invite the girls to help him demonstrate a move, teaching them on the spot how to dance AND showing the rest of us how. He would say things like, “Dance always has a lead and a follow, but those roles may change depending upon the dance.” So he compared things like the waltz with walking hand-in-hand along a street. Sometimes the follow would get out of the way as the lead passed by, and sometimes it was the other way around. That way one did not get into the habit of marching their partner backwards across the dance floor and making them exhaust themselves. He even had us walk backward around the gym 5 or 6 times in a row to help us to understand how uncomfortable that is. He spoke to us about being lead and how important it was to pay attention to what was going on behind the follow’s back so that we don’t run her or him into someone else. Basically, this jock rocked! Everyone had an awesome time, and by the time the first dance of the year came along we were all really confident in our skills. And the kid who made such fun of me when I was trying to golf actually asked me for some tips because, apparently, I had some natural skills when it came to dance!
It is not always easy to speak our truth as we see it. Sometimes it is an emotional roller coaster. We have to remember that we must continue to speak our minds even if our voices waver and we are trembling inside. Those are indications that we are afraid. Of course we are afraid! We have all been given social gag orders all of our lives! We are encouraged to only say those things that others WANT to hear from us. So when we have to say something that is not what they want to hear there could, indeed, be backlash. Still, we must say what is on our minds, no matter how “unpopular” it makes us. We also have to know that our truth may not be someone else’s truth, and that is okay. We do, however, still have to be honest about what we think or feel. We cannot expect someone to be telepathic because most people (MOST people) are not gifted that way. So we have to give voice to our thoughts and feelings and be honest about them. That way everyone knows where we stand on any given moment with any given subject.
My father used to say to people, “Now, before I give you my response to this you are going to have to understand that I tend to call a spade a spade and not a f@#%ing shovel.” Then he would speak his mind. It was not necessarily something that even I would agree with, but at least we all knew where he stood on the matter. I think that this is something that I inherited from him, except that I don’t give warning shots, I just shoot from the hip and let people deal with it. My mother, however, did teach me the importance of tact. So I do at least try to word it in a way that is tactful…unless I am angry. If I am angry then all bets are off as to what will come out of my mouth. Yes, this can create some disruption, but it is actually more useful than destructive in that it motivates some seriously needed changes.
In speaking our minds we are able to live a life of personal authenticity. We are no longer run by social expectations, or by sentiment and nostalgia (both of which are social traps). We are able to live our lives in a way that is honest and down to earth. Many people, although they may have never before encountered someone who speaks their mind, will come to appreciate it, and then they will come to trust it. This is an important step because if they can trust that YOU will speak your mind, they can then develop trust in themselves to do the same. As this skill set ripples forth the world becomes a more authentic place in which to live, one person at a time.