What Happens When We Do Not Speak Up?

I have noticed something worrying about the dynamics in our playground at school. Children are nervous about telling people when things do not feel right because there is a culture of being labelled as a ‘snitch’ or ‘grass’ or ‘tell-tale’.

So the children are learning to keep quiet, not saying out loud what they feel and know, whether it is something that has happened to them or something they have observed. This feels like a big ouch for all of us (I am sure our playground is not unique) – that children do not feel safe enough to express what they are feeling.

More so, I think this is perpetuated beyond the playground, in a society that does not want to open its eyes to what is really going on (ongoing conflict worldwide from the disharmony in our homes – accepting arguing as a natural, even healthy part of relationships – to full blown warfare between nations and everything in between, including domestic violence, road rage and cultural and religious divides). We blindly carry on, keeping quiet, whilst all around us these awful things continue.

Are we hoping someone else will do something; are we making excuses for not putting our heads above the parapet to say “This is madness”, all the while trying to convince ourselves that it is all OK?

As long as our nests are secure and apparently unaffected (“sure we argue sometimes, but the war is overseas”) we carry on regardless of the hurt and chaos. Heads down, eyes averted in case we see the same confusion and/or pain in someone else’s eyes and have to feel our own.

Back in the playground the child shakes away their disbelief that no one else is seeing and feeling what they are seeing and feeling, and starts to normalise the things that are not OK: rough play, foul words, gender competition, cruelty to fellow human beings etc.

As I observe the beginnings of this behaviour in the playground I am shaken to my core by the impact of not having spoken up and I am inspired by the fact that I always have a choice:

I can start to practise speaking, writing, standing and walking from a truth I know inside,


I can continue to play the social game – the well-oiled machine of my beautiful manners, well-rehearsed small talk and polite pleasantries.

I feel clumsy as I flounder between these two things: the comfy, familiar habit of social niceties and rightness, and the emerging, urgent, ‘loving humanity’ demand for truth. So just in case I hesitate for a moment, I consider “What happens when I/we do not speak up?”

The playground scene is a brilliant micro of the world. If we do not speak up and make ourselves heard, everyone suffers, getting used to a standard of behaviour between human beings that is cruel, divisive, aggressive and combative.

This foundation is then built into our lives and society: in our relationships – with a lack of respect and judgment about gender that is rife; in our attitude towards life – that it is a dog-eat-dog, combative world and that we have to be tough to survive; in our attitude towards work – do only what is required to keep ourselves provided for and safe; and in our relationship with ourselves – “I am worthless in the big picture and too small to make a difference.”

With deep appreciation for the love and support of the Benhayon family, the work of Universal Medicine and the inspiring life changes made by Students of the Livingness, I am allowing myself to see that there is another way which can turn all this on its head, and that my speaking the truth of what I feel and see in the world will not be treacherous, threatening and scary.

That, and in my willingness to re-learn to say things out loud, I can make a difference and the ripple effect of this is much more far reaching than I can possibly imagine.

Simply put, and in conclusion, my polite silence means I am part of letting the rot continue and pervade. Not OK!

“The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Albert Einstein

by Matilda Clark, Registered Midwife, Registered Nurse, Trainee Teacher, Mother of 3, Hampshire, UK

Further Reading:
Learning To Express Our Feelings
Taking Responsibility and Speaking my Truth
Trusting our ‘True Voice’ and Expression

1,287 thoughts on “What Happens When We Do Not Speak Up?

  1. “well-rehearsed small talk and polite pleasantries.” That really is how a lot of society is now at, myself included a lot of the time. Afraid to speak up, say what we really mean and need to say in fear of others reactions. I was like that my whole life. Less so now, but there is still a lot of opportunities to say more, speak up more and not allow myself to compromise on anything.

    1. Yes – I’ve noticed how sometimes we can say a lot but not be truly expressing ourselves at all and conversely we can say much with a few words – as the energy they are said with speaks volumes. Not that it’s just about how much we do or don’t say but more to highlight the value and worth of the quality of our expression…

  2. That is so true Matilda. The children’s play ground is a micro example of what is going on with adults too. Lately I was in a meeting with all managers and there was a lot of discrimination by the presenter and nobody dared to speak. You could feel the fear in the room. And my speaking up was not excepted but so needed to call out the lie.
    Like Einstein said:
    The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Albert Einstein

  3. Imagine growing up as a kid. Even before you know words and can speak, you know the truth of what’s going on around you. Imagine watching those close to you choosing to be unloving and harsh – it’s easy to see how we get adept at bottling things up pretty fast. Because we live like this for so long when we finally do share, it can come out like a flood, or a torrent. Your words remind me today Matilda to share how I feel, but in a way that’s easy and simple and no big deal – we can make it like child’s play.

    1. I remember as a child being constantly told by adults – “You can’t say that!” – to which my confounded response was always – “But it’s true” – to which they would reply – “Yes, but you can’t say that, people will get upset”. This confused me because my intention was not to hurt anyone so I learnt pretty quickly to zip it up and keep it all in. Not so now… 😉

    2. Children are constantly hearing lies that have been so accepted as the norm of conversations by adults. How interesting for children to feel the truth but observe adults not living the truth.

  4. I am wondering if the general population is aware of how formulaic things have become for our young people at school; how teachers are pressured to say certain things a certain way, in a certain amount of time to start, teach and wrap up a lesson, as well as the directives from administration that what happens in the playground needs to be dealt with in playtime and not learning time. (This only works if the students concerned are game enough to speak up in the melee of the playground about what has been happening and there’s time to give the matter in hand the consideration it deserves.)

    A flow-on from this is that students are no longer being offered the safe and supported space of their own classroom to discuss what has just happened at playtime or during the time going back to class, as they used to be before the intense and now fairly universal supervision and assessment of teaching and learning became the norm.

    Students once were offered the space to be heard, plus the opportunity to understand and work through the situation so they were settled and ready to concentrate on the next lesson. Nowadays, they are shut down by the expectations of the system, however, the greatest and saddest fallout of that is the fact that these students are consequently shut down to learning and all that means for them emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. The consequences from this are huge, right here and now, however, they hold a ‘time-bomb’ of ramifications for the future well-being of society.

  5. “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Albert Einstein. This is all so true and as said in time past “for evil to succeed it is only for good men to do nothing”. The words “snitch” “grass” “tell tale” – people that do this have a personal agenda for themselves and not for the whole. Like a “snitch” will “grass” on their criminal pals so they have less time in prison or do not go to prison at all. Expressing what’s true has none of these agendas, expressing the truth is what’s possible if the environment gives permission for it to be so. And of course one needs to work on their own environment and thereby expanding this out to the world.

  6. I unknowingly do put my head down sometimes because of my hurt and what I will see – I know I will see what I have been a part of too. So its probable I know what I am doing. The way out of this cycle, as Matilda has simply expressed, is to claim back our earth with truth for all and fill it with the beauty we all know within. We speak up not for self but for all.

  7. Our silence is the invisible punch thrown that sends us into deeper illusion because we do not even acknowledge that we cast it. As we are each comprised of truth deep at the very core of our being, to withhold the expression of it not only hurts us but also adds to the abuse and does naught to arrest it.

  8. Expressing in our fullness all the time needs to be foundational in our lives, and is something I am choosing to embrace.

  9. We always have a choice as you highlighted in this article, truth or not, ‘I can start to practise speaking, writing, standing and walking from a truth I know inside,
    I can continue to play the social game – the well-oiled machine of my beautiful manners, well-rehearsed small talk and polite pleasantries.’ We know and can feel how horrible the later choice is, the world needs truth all the time.

  10. Today at the hairdressers our conversation was about how come the 16-year-old assistant was too tired after a 20 minute walk to the gym that she had no energy for the gym. Soon a hairdresser nearby and a customer joined in and we continued an interesting discussion. It became a conversation that was not personal but universal. How different from how I remember hairdressers’ conversations in the past.

  11. Absolutely truth is needed no matter what, or we just add to the lies, ‘my polite silence means I am part of letting the rot continue and pervade. Not OK’

    1. This is brilliant part to highlight Lorraine because many people including myself have often thought it is OK to say silent in the face of abuse but it is not OK. Our entire body tells us this and we would have to suppress our awareness and love for ourselves and others to be able to walk away from abuse and not expose it or express how we feel.

  12. Yeh I remember that playground culture, how insidiously awful that it’s being instilled in kids from a super early age that to speak up is in someway wrong – and is it any wonder that if we bring up children this way we have a culture where people do not speak up but look the other way. I saw a super interesting viral video online where a man was verbally abusing a woman on a train and not one other passenger said anything or did anything – they just pretended it wasn’t happening. I have a new principle that I try and live by, and that is: if I see something I’ve responsible for it.

  13. So very true Matilda, we have what we have because the masses turn a blind eye… but we have fostered that in a world where we are constantly segregating, separating, denigrating and distinguishing one from another, whether by border, skin color, religion, education, prowess, disadvantage and so on. If we operate as ‘individuals’, separate from everyone, then we will not consider it our business to stand up for another we see suffering at the hands of a bully.

  14. Yes the comfortable apathy of ‘someone else will clean it up’ is rife in our societies everywhere and something I relate to too. Yet when we truly connect to humanity we cannot but feel the urgency to express, support, inspire, and truly reflect all that we are to others for there is much work to be done…

  15. Why is it that we allow elephants to enter the room and not just call them out and deal with them? It starts in the playground and climbs alongside us to the boardroom, the bedroom, the workplace, the government. In fact, anywhere there’s a group of people in relationship with each other. Then why are we so reluctant to make waves? Could it be we dislike the responsibility it would require of us and prefer the collusion of comfort in the unspoken?

  16. The belief of not wanting to be a snitch is such a damaging one because there are many children and teenagers that are struggling and their friends don’t feel it’s right to share that with adults that can actually support them.

  17. The thought “I am worthless in the big picture and too small to make a difference.” is a lie fed to us by a life that does not want to have to change its creation, forcing us to buy in to it and become the puppets that can be directed in any direction creation needs to have us.

  18. It really is like the world as a hologram… In this case we can see that the school yard is a microcosm of the macrocosm… You really can take any part in see the whole… Looking to any office, board room, workplace, you will see that we all represent the whole just a hologram.

  19. I agree Matilda. Before looking at our children’s behaviours we must first look at ours because if we as adults expressed all that was needed the whole time and did not hold back with this (as long as it was not harming or abusing another) then would we have so many children and young people being afraid to express what they truly feel? No, they would instead have a different reflection and foundation to live from.

  20. Holding back has also grave effects on our health as we hold back our life force and hence contract within. It is no wonder why so many today are suffering a lack of vitality and zest for life when holding back is so common. If we hold back in one part we hold back in all parts of our life.

    1. This is very true Joshua, and what’s more is that when we hold back we continue to perpetuate the lie that we have collectively subscribed to, along with resisting walking what is true, with who we are, as such offering a true way for us all to be together.

  21. I feel deeply that there is much to share that I know from deep inside me, I can get lost on how to do so, but this is only when I move away from the moment in which I am in. The learning for myself is to stay present and firmly deal with things as they appear, no more wondering how to do so, just an ease and trust that what is there, is needed.

  22. What is shared here about how children are in the playground gave me a moment to stop, to bring understanding to just how much we are moulded, from young to fit into the world as it is, even though we can feel the potential of what the world could be if we but called out and exposed the human behaviours that were not coming from a deep level of acceptance of and understanding for all.

  23. Matilda I am school governor at a local primary school and today in our meeting I had a clear feeling that the whole system had become overly complicated because of this very thing- people have not spoken up when they have felt something to not be true.

    Not just in schools, in every sector world wide we have industries built on complication because the simplicity of truth when it was felt was not spoken.

  24. Yes, from a young age we learn that there are often dire consequences when we speak up, or speak the whole truth we feel. It is so often considered that speaking the truth is not ‘nice’, which exposes precisely the truth of what being nice really means, which is what we have created as the bedrock of our society. So, if being ‘nice’ is accepted as the way we should conduct ourselves, which equates to not speaking our truth, in other words being dishonest with each other, then we have accepted to live a condoned and predetermined lie. Yet the irony is that in truth, no-one deep down enjoys being lied to.

  25. Holding back our expression is a very sophisticated way to create issues in life when there are no issues at all, it accumulates more and more until the reality we live in is fogged by the illusion and glamour from the world.

  26. Matilda the importance of speaking up is so strong in every area of life, I’ve found it easier to say what is important and true in some areas of life but held back in others… what I now know is the importance of always speaking up no matter what.

  27. It occurs to me that there are many significant people in history who were willing to speak up, regardless of their own personal popularity, and that history was changed for the better because of that one person’s voice. We may not all be famous, but the same opportunity is on offer. One person’s voice for truth makes a difference.

    1. yep and they learn behaviour without actually knowing this is what they are doing … not 100% conscious of it unless we are open and discuss this. Often I tell the young people I work with they are learning so much more than the lessons in classrooms to me this .. relationships, dynamics etc truly understanding this is the most important lesson of all as well as self-love and self-worth knowing that we are enough and understanding how to bring all of us into what we do (not looking outside for love).

  28. I was talking to a young person today about a similar thing and what it came down to was for them to honour what was true to them and not to worry what anyone else thought.On reflection what comes to me is how did we let this kind of behaviour happen in schools anyway … for it to be in school means we have not spoken up for ourselves or honoured and listened to what is true for us for many many years. Time to very much change this now.

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