There were six of us: Three single, without childen. Three married, with children.
We sat spread out across our living room after the monthly editorial meeting. The sun was beaming through the wood blinds and we were curled up on the two couches and the chair-and-a-half in the corner. The meeting was over, but we lingered, not wanting to leave the circle.
We talked about what kept us from writing.
Suddenly the conversation dropped to a deeper level. Two of our editors confessed that they had a hard time engaging on SheLoves when there are posts about motherhood and children. They checked out and felt like this space wasn’t for them. They were honest and raw and my heart was breaking. We want this to be a space where we can be this honest and feel welcome and invited. We have intentionally created a larger sisterhood space where we want to connect across these boundaries.We listened and I wondered how we could open up more conversations where they would feel more connected.
Then one of the other editors, a mother, spoke up.
Well, I have a hard time writing, because the message in my head is: O, you’re just a white suburban mom. What do you have to say? You don’t add anything meaningful to the conversation.
I fight that voice, she said.
We all fell silent.
There was something larger at work here.
This wasn’t about singleness or motherhood or a specific season in life or even a place in the world. This was about the messages that keep ALL of us from fully participating. These are the messages that keep us from community.
We turned to the others in the room: What keeps you silent?
They spoke up: O, everyone here is a mother. Everyone here is married. I don’t have a place here.
Sometimes I believe I am not enough of a mother to write. I only have two children and not four, like most of the women in my neighbourhood.
I believe my ideas are too scary. I can’t be honest, because it would shock people.
That day it became clear: We each have a message in our head that keeps us from entering into the conversation. It keeps us from writing. It keeps us from speaking up. It keeps us from commenting. It keeps us from participating. There’s a voice that wants to tell us we don’t belong. We have no right to speak up. And who the heck do you think you are?
One of the messages I have heard echoed back to me over the years is that SheLoves feels like everyone knows each other, except when you stand on the outside of all that. So, when we are intimate in our comments, those on the outside feel excluded. Newcomers feel like they can’t enter in or don’t have anything to offer … yet. So, they remain on the outskirts.
Last week, a small group of SheLovelys spent a day concluding a discernment process we’ve been going through, leaning in and listening to where God is leading us next. The conversation from that Saturday in my living room came up again. If our own editors are struggling with these messages, what messages are our readers struggling with? What messages keep our community silent?
Here are some of the messages we wrote down:
This story is not about me. I can leave the room. I don’t have to pay attention.
Everybody here knows each other. They’re friends, but I don’t even know them well enough to comment.
Everybody here is a writer. (And I am not.)
Everybody who comments is so articulate. (And I am not.)
I’m just a …
Everybody is a mom. (And I am not.)
There are not that many other young women here.
I’m too young.
I’m a white woman. Do I have anything to contribute? Do I have the right to speak up? I’m going to make a mistake and make things worse. I’m going to say the wrong thing.
I live in Europe. I don’t have anything to contribute to a North American conversation.
(Do you have a sentence you could add? Or which one of these rings true for you?)
Our community spans across generational, racial and geographical boundaries. Not all our readers are writers. We try and do this intentionally, to live out the view of an expansive God who loves and empowers women, wherever we are in the world. Sometimes these kinds of connections are not the most natural, but I honestly believe this kind of rubbing is good for us. I know we need places where we can associate with people who are in the same stages and places in life. Here, we are reminded that we belong to something larger than ourselves. Here, we remember how God calls us to larger community. It isn’t always comfortable, it isn’t always the most convenient, but it is a picture of something greater. Here we expand our view of the world, of God and especially ourselves. Here, I hope we get to practice the dream of a more beautiful and connected humanity.
What keeps me from connecting? I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to add noise. That’s the message that silences me.
I also know this: Our silence does not serve. The God of the Universe longs for us to be woven into community—whether it’s in a small circle in your home or right here in a virtual living room of sisters scattered across the earth.
We all hear a message in our heads that keeps us from connecting, participating and contributing. These kinds of messages are gatekeepers. They keep us from entering conversations at board meetings, parties and the gym. They silence us and they shut us out of community. When we name them, we can take away some of their power. We start to recognize how they try to keep us standing at a distance.
So, I’d love to hear: What message keeps you from participating? What message keeps you from commenting? What message keeps you from coming closer? Let’s name them.
Happy September, Lovelys! This month, we are exploring the theme of LABELS together. Phew. We have beautiful and challenging posts lined up and we’d love to hear what labels you want to talk about too. So, put on your boots! We’re doing this.