A friend of mine recently posted a quote on Facebook by the late Martin Luther King Jr. that caused me to pause and reflect on his powerful and wise words.
The words spoken long ago by this great man can be adapted and woven into many aspects of our lives — “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The “silence of our friends”, four little yet moving words, hit me in a way that was quite unexpected. He was right, silence from those we expect to have our backs can cause us to question who our friends really are. The “silence” is what we remember the most and what typically causes the greatest heartaches.
We can always understand that our enemies will treat us wrong and act in unkind ways. We prepare ourselves to be disrespected and to have horrible words hurled at us. Not that it makes these actions right, but that’s what our enemies do — try to hurt us. We may be emotionally caught off guard by the actions of our enemies, but they are never unexpected. After all, our enemies wouldn’t be our enemies if they were nice and supportive.
Friends, on the other hand, we expect more.
The real pain and disappointment that arises from a friend’s silence (and sometimes it is a deafening silence) and the lack of support, can cut deep into our emotional soul because we just don’t expect it. And, kind of what I was dealing with when I first read this quote.
We expect that our friends will cheer us on. Support and encourage our endeavors. We trust that they will lend a hand or give an encouraging word when we need it the most. To feel ignored and unimportant, well, we can get that kind of treatment from our enemies.
Silence from our “friends” can manifest itself into more far-reaching dire consequences, rather than just cause personal hurt feelings. The recent #metoo movement brought into the spotlight the dangers of remaining silent in the wake of exposed sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the political arena, and the corporate world. How many women are there that could have been spared the pain, humiliation, and heartache of being a victim of sexual misconduct and assault if someone would have had the courage to speak up sooner?
Both men and women in Hollywood knew what was going on, but they kept silent. Many who kept silent claimed to be friends with the victims but refused to speak out for fear that their own careers would be in jeopardy. They adored these men, gave them awards, and put them up on a pedestal when they should have been stopping their sick actions and fighting for their “friends”. Silence, in this case, allowed these actions to continue and for more and more women to become a part of the ever-growing victims’ list.
Until people became vocal about the dangers of bullying, the silence from “friends” kept it hidden. How many people have seen someone being tormented and abused, but were too afraid to step up and get involved. How many kids had to endure relentless years of bullying, wishing that someone, just even one person, would speak up and help stop it.
It’s time that we re-examine our views on silence and raise our voices. We need to be more aware of just how dangerous being silent can be. The saying, “They suffer in silence”, should be enough motivation to do something and to eradicate the saying for good.
Don’t be afraid to have your friend’s back, to be their biggest cheerleader, to say a kind word, and give them a shout out. Don’t be afraid to be vocal when you can bring attention to the injustices of this world. Just don’t be silent anymore and be more aware of who needs your voice.
And, please if you liked this article, don’t be silent and actually “like’ it.