The Messages that Separate Us

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Idelette McVicker -Community6

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.

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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Idelette McVicker
  • Christina S

    This keeps me from paticipating:
    English ist not my first language, so I might sound really stupid (and everone else sounds so intelligent and wonderful).
    I hate to make a profile (what was my passowrd again?)
    I am a older mom(I married so late in life that i still feel closer to the Singles than to mums J) and I have only one child. And still I stay at home right now, writing, struggeling if my voice is needed.

    I am very thankful for this community. So often I wanted to commend and say: “OH YES, me too!” I can`t believe how many gifted, wonderful writers there are! (which brings me to: Is my voice needed? ) Love and blessings! Christina from Germany.

    • Steph

      Hi Christina,

      My mom’s first language isn’t English either and I’ve grown up watching her be held back by her voice telling her that she shouldn’t participate. And oh my word – its so untrue – I needed her voice, thick accent and all, to show me how to be a woman full of grace and courage. I needed that and now that she is in her 70s I realize how much I missed because she let that doubt hold her back.
      We so very much need your voice, your perspective, your thoughts. We need them to know that we aren’t alone. I need your voice 🙂

      viele liebe gruesse,
      Stephanie

      • I love this, Steph. Thanks for jumping in. My mom’s first language isn’t English either. (Technically, neither is mine.) Global sisterhood, indeed.

      • Christina S

        Vielen Dank Stephanie:-). YOur words are so healing…Liebe Grüße zurück zu Dir! Christina

    • Christina, I am so grateful for your honesty right here. You pierced me … (in the best way) and started us off so beautifully with your comment. Thank you for going first. And you sound WONDERFUL and articulate. 🙂

      I do hear you on the profile thingy … Thank you for doing it anyway. Your comment meant so much, because I felt *heard.* Really heard. And I could hear you … All that to say, Your voice is needed.

      Love and blessings to you in Germany–the first place I ever traveled to.

      • Christina S

        Thank you Idelette! I feel *heard* to. Thanks for your heart that is wide and loving for a global sisterhood! That`s why this page is a global blessing.

  • I love this community, but mostly feel like I’m just a student here, learning from seasoned women of faith who write beautiful crafted words and are not afraid to speak up on bold issues. Being young, white, also not a native English speaker and living in Asia I’m sometimes jealous of the physical community aspect and often wish it was possible to reach across the screens and social media ‘barriers’ to be part of the real life conversation 😉

    • Not a native speaker here either, my friend. I think that possibly makes us more open to grace–giving it, but hopefully also receiving it!

      Also: I love that you are living in Asia. Reminds me how big our world is and how there are other time zones and views of the world. Thank you for speaking up, Dorette. Much Love, XO

      • Yes. Grace is key. I forgot to mention that I’m also a South African and In I probably stumbled on She Loves through one of your posts. I love reading all the different perspectives and although it doesn’t always feel like I have something to contribute, I always feel like I have something to take away, words that stay with me,different viewpoints to ponder and stories that resonate with my heart. Looking at the other comments I realize that it’s mostly our own voices and insecurities that keeps us from participating, this community is already a safe space, the invitation is sent out and we simply need to show up 😉 Thank you for leading women out of hiding and into the light of love.

        • I think I knew that you are South African … But I love being reminded. So grateful you are showing up here.

  • I speak up when it’s a topic I am comfortable with but stay silent when it is something I feel I have no authority in. Those places where I am the voice of the white woman who has no right to speak into minority issues. Those progressive conversations that I fear will see me as a more conservative voice. Those conservative friends that will see me as too progressive!

    There are so many ways I silence myself, don’t speak from my true voice out of fear of what others will think. THIS, Idelette – “Our silence does not serve. The God of the Universe longs for us to be woven into community” I’m trying to remember it and live it. There is no community without vulnerability. Thank you for making this the kind of place we can be ourselves.

    And sisters who haven’t spoken up yet – I lurked for a long time out of fear. I started commenting because I wanted community, needed it. I started submitting (with a few rejections), and then just kept showing up every month thinking “if I write enough times, they’ll know I’m not going anywhere,” was asked to edit (and said “are you sure?! me?!”) But I still have to fight daily to feel like I really belong at his table. And that’s not a feeling that comes from God. So, add your voice here, sisters. You belong!

    • I feel this way too. When there’s a topic I know and am comfortable with or can relate to then I feel I have much to say and so I do…BUT on the topics where I am ignorant, or topics that may touch boundaries that might offend someone, I tend to stay quiet. I do feel this is a safe place though. Any disagreeing comments have been dealt with love and gentle replies. So I feel it’s not this community, it’s me. It’s me not feeling confident in what I have to say. This is something I am constantly working on. What I have to say and what I have to learn, the questions I want to ask – they matter. We all matter. Grateful for these honest words Idelette. And for a place to be real. Thank you!

      • Thank you so much for weighing in, Keri! I love hearing your voice here and honestly, I also struggle with confidence. But the more I lean in, the stronger I get. I used to stay up ALL night working on a single post here. I was fighting fear and insecurity, but I kept showing up … It’s still daunting, not going to lie, but we took the counters off two months ago, and that feels so much lighter to me. Like we can lean in to these kinds of conversations and not worry about how “shareable” it is. THIS for me is so beautiful. Sacred space right here.

    • I love that you kept at it, Nicole. I’m so grateful you are here and we get to hear your voice and perspective on the world.

      It’s so astounding to me how we ALL have to fight to believe we have a seat at the table. Feel like we’re kicking some big lies in the pants here.

      Thank you for adding your voice.

  • So many of the reasons for NOT commenting apply to me. But there are days when I feel like I’m becoming the scary church lady that some of us remember from the church basements of our youth — shrill, and totally focused on getting everyone’s wings on straight. Community keeps my thinking and my heart focused outward. Often I have nothing to add to a conversation here except my voice of support, which I HOPE says to the writer that I hear her and I’m learning — or at least trying to learn that this narrow way of faith does not need to be as claustrophobic as we sometimes make it.

    • Michele, I sooooooo appreciate how you comment and show up and speak up and stand right here. You definitely minister to me and to our writers at large. Showing up so faithfully, being present here and always thoughtful. it means SO. MUCH. I truly hope that is returned to you a thousand-fold.

  • Roos Woller

    I am not a writer and English is my second language so I feel conscious about the fact that I might make a mistake in what I write or sometimes I read the comments and I feel they already say the things I think so beautifully so I don’t want to add another less eloquent message that says the same.

    • Your ESL sis right here. And it’s your heart that shines through, btw. So appreciate how hard you work to be here and love and support this community.

  • Shelley Kimble-Welch

    My mouth often runs off before my brain catches up and so I fear sounding stupid. But I am compassionate about many things and where I see a wrong, I will speak up. At the same time, I always believe there is someone smarter in the room and I should take my cue from that. So, when in a room of other women (or men) that is what I fight in my head!

    • Hey Shelley, from what you are saying, I wonder if you are one of the women who might speak up first in a room … ? I’ll tell you–as someone who asks questions–I LOVE women who are willing to speak up first. You might think it’s your mouth running off, but I see it as making a Way with your words for others to also come along … We need the deep thinkers, but we also need the women who are willing to go first and speak their minds, even if everything is not all perfectly articulated. Together, we create the conversation and we give each other permission. Particularly, I am so grateful for your voice here today … So, please know how valuable it was even just to me today to have you be willing to speak up, right here.

      Big hug,

  • Jamie

    I think this community can often feel like a club — I have felt like I’m on the outside from time to time. But I also love how different perspectives are all included here. I’m married with no children, but I think there are still times when I learn something from moms who are writing about their children. What keeps me from commenting is feeling like because I’m an outsider, my voice is not needed. I also struggle with saying the right thing when talking about important issues. I know I’m still learning and I’m afraid to say something silly. I am a writer and I’d love to be more a part of this community, and I look forward to this month and finding ways to overcome the things that keep up quiet.

    • Hi Jamie Thank you for your honesty here. It breaks my heart that you and other women have felt on the outside … It’s the very thing we want to stand against, but I think, for that reason, it’s also the thing we will have to work hardest to address. I am so grateful you spoke up today and joined the conversation. Thank you for being here. It matters.

      • Jamie

        Thank you! It’s really one of those things that I know is not intentional, because you really have created a wonderful community, which is why we want to be a part of it!

  • Helene Burns

    This is so important to talk about… my list for feeling like I have nothing/not enough to contribute would be rather lengthy I am afraid. I choose to write or speak up anyway not because it feels easy or comfortable for me but it pushes me forward out of a commitment I made to not shrink back to where I feel small and unworthy of a voice. Here, in this space, I genuinely feel the urging and the encouragement of a beautiful sisterhood that compels me in my weakness.

    I feel so blessed to have the privilege of being in many conversations with sisters globally and this particular conversation feels so ‘familiar’ to me. Sisters all over the world struggle with feeling that they are enough, that they truly belong and have a seat at the table. I have learned that knowing we belong to Jesus, means we belong in His family and to each other – that is what ultimately gives me confidence.

    • Helen, I so appreciate your words. Thank you so much for how you have been willing to go first in my life. You demonstrate and live this authenticity, even when it’s hard stuff, like admitting how or when we don’t feel enough.

      Thank you for being here.

  • Meg Farrell Patterson

    I keep wanting to

    • Thank you for speaking up, Meg! So grateful you are here.

    • Helene Burns

      Please, please do Meg. I would love to hear your voice. xo

  • When I stay quiet in a conversation, any conversation, it’s either because I honestly have nothing to say, or it’s because I’m afraid I’m not enough. Insecurity is a fierce bear to wrestle. Sometimes, it’s hard to get to the heart of it … We are wounded in community and we are healed in community … It’s wonderful to find places where we are afforded the opportunity to embrace a community of healing.

    • O, do I know that message of not feeling enough! Yikes. I feel like we’re staring that one DOWN today. 💪🏾💪🏾💪🏾

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    I came to SheLoves because of a piece I read that I SO related to but I’ve stayed here because of the dozens of pieces I’ve read that are way outside of my realm of experience. My favourite thing about this community is the diversity. I love the affection and respect that is fostered her and the value placed on each person who writes a piece or makes a comment.

    Lovelies… This is a safe place to share, to speak or to just say ‘me too!’ We need your voice … I need your voice! Your truth helps me to grow in compassion and understanding. It helps me to be brave. It reminds me to listen with an open heart.

    Thank you for being here, sisters. Thank you for being community ❤️

    • So grateful to have you here!!!!!

  • Sandy Hay

    A teacher once told me that I wrote so much but said so little. That haunted me for years. I’m still not a writer and I’m old enough to be Mom to most of you. That doesn’t stop me from commenting when I get that God “prompting”. Sitting here at my computer and writing, seeing your photo, is almost like sitting at my kitchen counter and you are there across from me and we’re sipping amazingly wonderful strong coffee and chatting. Sheloves is a safe place for women to speak up. Like Helen I sometimes” force” myself to do this out of commitment I actually made to God. I’ve known for many years the significance of Titus 2 and the responsibility that goes with that scripture. No matter where we live in the world or what our background is, this is a safe place to write what burns on your heart. And today is a wonderful beginning.

    • Laesa Kim

      I love your vision of reading this and putting yourself across the kitchen counter from the writer, Idelette. I think that’s brilliant!

    • I am so grateful you are taking those teacher’s words and making them fuel for your fire. I know I will forever be grateful for how you show up and how your words have created that warmth and connection. I can taste that strong coffee …

      xo

    • Joy Howard

      I am just reading this article now, but I wanted to say Sandy that I am so very proud of you for identifying these words from the teacher that have shaped you. I have found that cannot re-write my narratives into the truth if I don’t first identify the lies. I know you have much to say. I am glad this teacher was wholly wrong. And I’m very sorry she/he said it in the first place. As a teacher, this breaks my heart.

  • Rea

    I often feel like I don’t have anything to add to the discussion…any discussion. But deeper than that, I think I am afraid of being labeled ‘boring’. I’m afraid that people will roll their eyes and think “Why is she talking, she has nothing interesting to say.”

    I’m trying to get better about speaking up, about valuing my voice. Why? Because every horrid thing I have said to myself in the quiet of my own mind, my 11 year old is speaking out loud about himself. I can’t teach him that HIS voice is worth hearing if I don’t believe that about myself.

    • O, Rea! Thank you so much for your honesty. My heart is aching here … But I am grateful that you are wanting to have better inner dialogues, so you can help your son with his. What you have said here? NOT BORING. This is authentic and strong and passionate and piercing. Thank you for showing up here today. Much LOVE to you and your 11-year-old.

  • Kathleen Bertrand

    Thank for for asking this question Idelette and thank you to all the editors for thinking so much about this! I can claim SO many of those messages above for myself as well as many which have been written about below.

    Mainly though, I have so often wanted to comment on a post but have stopped because it is so public and permanent. I want to wait until I can really think about what I want to say but often can’t or don’t find the time to return and do it.

    It really means a lot that you are finding ways to open up this community even more! One of the reasons why I always feel welcome here even if I can’t always show it.

    • Thank you, Kathleen! I am so grateful to hear your voice here and your perspective. It definitely matters.

      I totally hear you on the obstacle to commenting. I want it to be perfect and deeply meaningful and then I just shut down and don’t comment. So, now I just start typing … 😉

  • Laesa Kim

    Does my voice matter, will anyone even notice my words? Do my thoughts make sense written out as they do in my head? What if I offend somebody, or say the wrong thing? Somebody already said what I was thinking. Am I even adding anything of value? I don’t know anyone here, not intimately anyways. Can you begin to know people intimately just by reading each others words?

    Thank you for opening up this conversation Idelette. I’ve never understood what people meant by finding community within different social media outlets, not until I opened up my own life and wrote out my honest experiences and thoughts. People are craving to connect. I can feel it within both the long and brief comments I might get on a post. We all want community, in whatever form that comes in, but breaking our own barriers to get it is the real challenge. Recognizing that we limit ourselves is so important. Then having a safe place like this to begin is so great.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you, Laesa! How lovely to hear your voice here and thank you for your honesty … It really is amazing how much we can connect when we read each other’s words.

      Thank you!

  • Wow, Idelette. As always, thank you for bringing us in. I first started reading back when Sarah Bessey was a regular contributor, and am so glad for that. I know I hung around, not commenting, but each time I have the courage to, the response is so welcoming. Whenever I feel that I’m “on the outside,” I realize it’s because I’m not participating….

    What keeps me reading? The fact that you are so intentional about including a rich array of backgrounds. What keeps me from commenting? Sometimes, the author says it so perfectly, I don’t even know what to say. Sometimes, I feel so out of my league and still in the learning phases, I’m to shy to add my elementary learning.

    But, I thank you for adding chairs to the table. And adding more, and still more. (Perhaps it’s not a table so much as a picnic blanket, ever expanding?)

    • PS- Your series on hair was the most amazing I’ve read in a while. But, this month seems like it’ll be a rival…

      • Ooooo, thank you! Let’s HOPE.

    • Thank you so much, Annie! I love that image of the picnic blanket, ever-expanding. Sounds like the Kingdom of God to me. So appreciate your voice here.

  • I love the diversity of topics and opinions at SheLoves. This reading and commenting is new to me. I have followed certain blogs or bloggers for the past two years, but never really commented. Now I am trying to comment more and be involved. But not always sure what to say or if there are unspoken rules or not when it comes to commenting. So This holds me back sometimes.

    • O, Theresa! Thank you so much for speaking up and adding your voice here. A comment means so much to the writer, because you are saying, I’m here. I see you, I hear you, your words are having an impact. I don’t think there’s a bigger gift to a writer than seeing a response.

      So grateful to see you here.

  • I think I have felt safe to comment because you presented this community as being international and others have the experience of living in a different country from the one they grew up in. It is a bewildering experience that God has used to change me, and break me and make me new. In my secret dream place, I am an aspiring writer, so I like to ‘hang out’ here with writers and pretend I could be one. But right now I’m a brand new, thrown in the deep end special education teacher and glad to be part of the conversation.

    • Thank you, Morag! That means a lot.

      I look forward to reading more of your words when that time comes!

  • Saskia Wishart

    I am just catching up on posts this evening and gosh Idelette this one says so much, but I think the comments here say even more. I love that you dive into the hard conversations rather than shy away, and I so appreciate how you are constantly looking for ways to expand the conversation and bring more women in… Thank you. I know for me, sometimes I just don’t know what to comment. But I push myself because I know how much it means to feel like people have heard what you want to say. Reading all these comments here I realise its a struggle SO MANY women are facing. We are not alone in our insecurities, or even in our silence.

  • Joy Howard

    I am catching up on SheLoves articles. Going through a rough career transition. I’ve not been writing and this article spoke to me so loudly.

    YES to this: “We each have a message in our head that keeps us from entering into the conversation.”

    YES to this: “Our silence does not serve.”

    YES to this: “When we name them, we can take away some of their power.”

    So tonight, I am writing. I am naming what has been holding me back and I am rejecting those lies.

  • Melaney G Lyall

    It has been a joy to see all those who are risking by allowing us, inviting us into their worlds. Thank you for investing in this magazine! Thank you to this global community who is choosing to walk together in our vulnerabilities and strengths. We all have a story to tell! We all will leave a legacy! xo