“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
She wanted me in the room.
Not to advise, or speak for her, or do anything but just be there while she did a very hard thing. Something that far too few young women in college do when they find themselves standing at the gritty intersection between remaining silent and speaking the truth. After nearly two decades of working with college freshmen and sophomores, there’s one gray hair for each student whose dangerous choices I’ve agonized over through the years. Some have been academic. Others have been brutally painful and personal.
And so, it is hard to shock me at this point. My students know this. The current environment in which sexual violence toward women is normalized and excused in entertainment and popular media, and the ways this permeates the culture on college campuses, is why.
Maybe that’s why she wanted me there. After all, it’s always good to have someone in the room who isn’t going to freak out when you speak your truth to paunchy, middle aged, men in suits and ties in a conference room or police station. Things you haven’t even told your roommate. She did a hard thing that day. She was brave. So brave.
Tales of courage get around on a college campus. That’s how it works. Because she was brave enough, others will be stronger and braver, too, when it is time to speak their own truths. I have seen this happen, time and again. It is how healing begins.
The toughest thing about being young is that while you are, the things that happen to you seem enormous and all-encompassing. One advantage of growing older is that you gain a whole lot of perspective about both the good and the bad things that happen to you.In time, my young friend will see this. Her hope, in the telling, is that another young woman faced with the same decision, will find her voice, too. To muster up enough courage to do the hard things. To be brave and state calmly, firmly, “this happened to me.”
My hope, in the telling, is that if you happen to be her friend, her teacher, her pastor or family member, you will come into the room if she asks you. You won’t need to say a word. She’ll do that herself.
You just need to show up.