I know this is probably going to shock many of you who even know me slightly, but when I was a kid I was very shy and pensive. I know this may be hard to believe for most, but it is absolutely true. I still am pensive at times, but ever since sophomore year at BC High I have really come out of my shell (OK, way out of my shell). I am full on extravert, free spirit, blunt and, as many would attest, sometimes bigger than the room (especially when at the dinner table).
In this post, don’t want to focus on the “bigger than life Lou” that you may have experienced. I want to focus on being a shy kid. Since my high school years, I have made more mistakes and offended more people because of my direct M.O., but believe it or not, I have more regret from those shy times. In keeping my thoughts and feelings guarded, I did more damage than good. Sure, there were times when speaking my mind and my opinion may have been taken the wrong way, and keeping silent was safe and comfortable. But it also caused me not to speak up when I should have.
Kids can be mean and hurtful, quite often because they are scared and want to belong. I never was the outwardly hurtful type, but I didn’t stick up for others either, which made me as bad as the bullies. I was talking with a close friend of my sister’s recently, whom I happened to go to grade school with, and she reminisced that I was “one of the cool kids.” It was surprising to me that she would say that because I never believed that to be true. I was always the number three or four kid in a group in school at that age. Maybe I was with the cool kids, but that moniker probably was just applied because of guilt by association. I was more like a follower of the “cool kids”.
It’s over 35 years ago, so it’s not that vivid in my brain, but I know there were times when the leaders of the pack picked on others, ridiculed them, and did things to make kids feel like they didn’t belong. I never once stood up. I never once spoke up. And although I didn’t participate in the actions of the group, I was more guilty than the offenders, because I didn’t feel like I fully belonged and I knew that was not a good feeling. I didn’t support those being teased because I wanted to have the perception that I belonged. But hiding from the truth is just a lie in another form. Not doing or speaking in others’ defense was purely an act of cowardness. It was safe and had the appearance of comfort, but in reality, it wasn’t comfortable at all, because I understood right and wrong.
I probably regret not speaking up for those who needed it more than anything else I can think of doing in my life. It’s probably why I over-share now, and speak up all the time. I always want my feelings known. I do not know what specifically converted me in high school; although, I know the atmosphere and teachings at BC High and their philosophy of being a man for others hit me to the core. I know since then, I have most definitely made more mistakes than when I was shy and safe, but I am good with that. Because I no longer hide from what I believe and always say what I feel. Some love that about me, others loathe it. I have to tell you: I really don’t care what others think now. Because it’s better to be true to me than to fall into the trap of doing whatever “fits in” just to be accepted.
I now know that it is better to face a little bit of discomfort in a situation with honesty than to avoid the issue and let it fester. There is more regret in safe silence than in blunt honesty. I know blunt seems like a bad word, but is dishonest denial a better way to behave? As with most things, a balanced approach is best. Staying balanced with honesty and a thoughtful approach is definitely the way to go. Sometimes, that could be standing up and speaking loudly; other times, it’s a more tender whisper. But, always it should be backed by your beliefs.
So don’t be safe when it comes to honesty. Don’t regret not speaking out. Don’t pretend that it’s not your business. Don’t hide from the issues. Don’t fool yourself; it will become more of a problem if not addressed immediately. Not saying the truth is still a lie.