I had a dream last week that has had me thinking all week. In my dream, I was in some sort of board meeting - I can't pick out all the faces, but all of them seemed to be men influential in the life of the church where I presently serve. As in many group meetings, some men tended to carry the conversation (proposing their ideas, making their voice heard). Others mostly observed and added pertinent information when needed. Still others were fairly disengaged - overwhelmed by the topic of conversation or simply not interested. Conversation took on an ebb and flow as board room conversations often do. There were times of seriousness and times of laughter. Discussion progressed - things seemed to be moving.
One man, we'll call him Joe, sat in deep concentration. Joe is a deep man - one who thinks well and speaks rarely. One of those men who you should listen to when he does indeed speak. But when Joe spoke at this particular meeting on this particular topic, no one listened. When he spoke, it was as if no one had spoken. No acknowledgment, no response. No one listened.
And then there was me...realizing that Joe's insights were important and that no one was listening, I merely repeated what Joe said. People listened to me. And the words that came out of my mouth were well received. No one knew that they weren't my words.
Conversation would progress, Joe would prayerfully and introspectively comment, no one would listen, and I would casually and cooly repeat his sentiments as if they were my own. And those around me would listen. They would listen to me.
Our meeting lasted long, and here's what happened to Joe...Joe's comments moved from prayerful and thoughtful insight to negative and sarcastic joking. His lack of voice, the fact that no one was listening to him, caused his heart to change and a sort of bitterness came forth.
But I did not change. I continued, like a parrot, to mimic Joe's words. Even what he intended to be negative and sarcastic was perceived as witty and humorous by those who were listening to me.
And so both Joe's insight and sarcasm fell on deaf ears while I became the spotlight by pilfering what no one else would listen to.
And I wonder...
- Do we as people marginalize the voice of those who seldom speak?
- Why don't we fight for their voice to be heard?
- What is it doing to them? Are significant voices silent because they have been marginalized?
- What role do I play? How can I fight for those without a voice and ensure that they are heard instead of me?