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

1,264 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… 😉

  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’

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