Why Race Matters

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to face any of our fears, and that they would all just one day disappear? This is the mindset of many people in America regarding race. Although skin color is one of the first things we notice about each other, many of us would rather not discuss such a topic because it’s “divisive” or “touchy”. Many people would prefer to insist that they don’t even see race. Many believe that even mentioning race is immediately going to tear people apart.  Why even think about something that has torn people apart for centuries? After all, race shouldn’t even matter… right?

I’m here to challenge this mindset and say that race does matter. While we are all people deserving of love and respect, we are not all the same. Your skin color is a piece of what determines your worldview. My experience as a black person in America has been, and will continue to be different from the experience of a white person. For example, when I was fourteen, my family moved to a predominantly white area of Schenectady, New York. My high school was nearby, so I would walk to school every day. The first time I walked to school, I took a wrong turn on a side street and I was lost. Being a very outgoing and social person, I decided to ask for directions. I noticed a car parked with a family inside, and all of their windows were down. I walked over to ask the man in the driver’s seat for directions, but when I got close to their car, they locked the doors and sped away. Needless to say, I was late for school that day.

I am not white, so I am not able to completely speak for how a white person would have fared in that situation. However, I think it would be fair to say that this has never happened to the average white American. I can’t help but think that if I were white, I would have gotten directions out of that family very easily. The expressions on their faces as I approached their car said it all. They were afraid of me. And they weren’t the only ones. In this neighborhood, white people walking their dogs, going for a run, or just taking a stroll, would walk on the other side of the street if they saw that I was walking in their direction. If I forgot to take my hood down in Dunkin Donuts, people would almost immediately get up and leave. Because I have the experience of strangers being fearful of me, I have learned to be apprehensive of pretty much everyone I meet. You know what’s scarier than a black man in store wearing a hood? Being a black man in a store wearing a hood.

This is my experience as a racial minority, so whenever I hear someone say that race isn’t important, I cringe. When I hear someone say that they don’t see race, it feels like they’re saying that they don’t see my struggle of being a black man in America. And unfortunately, people that “don’t see race” are often the same ones insisting that I, and many other minorities are overthinking what we have perceived as racial discrimination. Their response to racial inequality is the same as the family in the car- avoid eye contact at all costs.

We need to be able to see each other’s race because it represents so much more than a color. A person’s race is a step to mutual understanding. If you can recognize that minorities have had the cards stacked against them for centuries and still live with the consequences today, you can grow in empathy for them, and you can see them for the strong people that they are. If you can accept and appreciate the diversity of race in America, it becomes easier to appreciate the fact that we are all different and bring different perspectives to the table of understanding. Black people are not the same as white people and that’s okay! That doesn’t make black people better than white people or vice versa- just different. If you can comprehend that minorities have a different experience than white people, then you can take the time to listen to them when they are outraged over the racial inequalities that still exist today.

I’m not saying any of this to make white people feel guilty. Guilt is never productive. My hope is that people will read this and begin to realize that the answer to division is not to ignore it. When you ignore the problems that exist, you choose to allow them to live. When you ignore the diversity of race in America, you ignore the struggle that many of us face on a daily basis, and you refuse to do anything about it. If you want everyone to be equal in this country, you have to first acknowledge that we are all different in the first place. While we are the same in the way that we are all people in need of love, we also have different backgrounds and perspectives. It’s not the recognition of this fact that divides us, it’s the exploitation of it.

So please, look at my skin and notice how it’s different from yours. Ignoring this piece of the human body diminishes everything that minorities have fought for. The fight was never for racial homogeneity. It was for unity in diversity. We can learn a lot from each other if we just open our eyes.

Having Black Friends Does Not Give You the Right to Make Offensive Comments

Have you ever heard someone say something along these lines after making an offensive comment?

“It’s not a big deal! My best friend is black, I can say whatever I want!” 

Or maybe something like this…

“I have a gay friend. We make jokes like this all the time.” 

I hear things like this all the time. You have probably heard things like this before. Maybe, you’ve even said something like this before. If that’s you, before you click away from this blog or prepare a comment to share with me, I’m not here to condemn anyone. I’m writing only to educate. I’m hoping we can learn and grow together.

I didn’t think this topic was big enough to write about until I read comments made by Michigan official, Phil Stair. Stair had this to say in regards to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan (WARNING: NSFW):

“Well, Flint has the same problems as Detroit, f***ing niggers don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them. I don’t want to call them niggers… I just went to Myrtle Beach, 24 guys, and I was the only white guy. I got friends, I mean, there’s trash and there’s people that do this.”

Phil Stair thought it was appropriate to blame a water crisis on “niggers” who “don’t pay their bills”. And how did he excuse such a comment? By insisting that he has “friends”. Stair claimed that he went to Myrtle Beach with a group of black men and said that he had black friends. It seems like he was trying to use his “friendship” with black people as a license to use harmful and ignorant language to paint black people as criminals and freeloaders. He attempted to get away with promoting blatant racism by claiming friendship with the same people he was trying to bring down. This is an extreme example, but this is not uncommon.

We tend to think these types of excuses come from older white men who have never been held accountable for prejudiced ideas. However, I have heard statements of a similar nature expressed by other college-aged people. My freshmen year of college, I confronted a classmate who made a racist joke. I was told to relax because one of his closest friends was black. I have called people out for using homophobic slurs, and similarly, I have been told that because they had a gay friend that it wasn’t a big deal if they called someone a faggot.

When I hear excuses such as these, I tend to question the depth of the friendship that someone must have with a minority that makes it okay for them to use such offensive language. Spoiler alert: there is no excuse for racist, sexist, or homophobic language to be used to put someone else down. And let’s just say your black friend isn’t offended by racist jokes. Your one, two, or twenty black friends do not speak for the entire black community. Just because one person isn’t bothered by something you say, that does not make it wrong for someone to be hurt by offensive language or actions.

On top of that, if you really value your friendship with your minority friends, why would you want to use language that could potentially harm them or others? My best friend is a straight, white man. Because he is my best friend (and a decent human being), he would never even think about using our friendship as an excuse to use racial or homophobic slurs. I cannot imagine him saying to one of his buddies, “I’m friends with Joe, so it doesn’t really matter if I use the n-word here and there.” For one, I would kill him. Secondly, he values our friendship. If you genuinely value the relationship you have with someone, you should never use that bond to allow yourself to escape responsibility for your words and actions.

“But, I really do have a black friend, and he’s okay with the types of jokes and comments that I make!”

Even if that is true, as I said before, your one black friend does not speak for the entire black community. No one ever takes what one white person says or does and applies it to the entire white population. Why would you do the same for a minority? Even if you know of a minority that doesn’t seem to care about offensive comments, recognize that one minority cannot speak for an entire minority population. Not even I can speak for everyone. Even if you love what I have to say, I am not representative of every single American minority. There will be those who disagree with me. Just understand that you cannot make one person the reason why you get away with offensive comments.

All I’m asking is that you educate yourself. Some people reading this may be thinking, “I am so sick and tired of political correctness”. I’m not asking you to be so afraid of offending someone that you say nothing at all. We have the freedom of speech. However, great power comes with great responsibility, and words have power. No matter how you twist or turn it, words are powerful. You cannot just say whatever you’d like to. Take responsibility for what you say. If you’re comfortable enough to purposefully offend, you should be comfortable enough receiving the backlash. And if you think you’re prone to accidentally offending someone, please take this moment to open yourself up to reproach. If you are an adult, you are responsible for everything you do. Use your free speech wisely and allow yourself to be held accountable to those around you.

 

My Culture (Almost) Scared Me Out of Intimate Friendships

I grew up in a time of widely accepted hyper-masculinity. For young boys in the early 2000’s, it was not okay to be seen as weak or even remotely feminine. It was encouraged to be cold, calloused, and even cruel. I still see this mentality carry over in today’s youth, and I see these expectations projected onto and from grown adults. For young men in America, it is only socially acceptable to show love and affection to young women who we’re romantically and sexually attracted to. And even in those cases, men are still expected to show a lack of emotional attachment and vulnerability. This was a blunt reality when I was a child, and today, it seems like an unspoken assumption.

In addition to this, homophobia was (and still is) a cultural norm. Especially when I was growing up, gay was a word used to demean people for being sensitive or even just artistic. In school, “that’s gay” meant “that’s stupid” or “that’s bad”. Gay was often a word used to intimidate young boys out of expressing complex emotions. And if someone was actually LGBTQ, their social life was over. Coming out of the closet in middle school and high school was a death wish. It seemed like the equivalent of writing “kick me” a thousand times on your back. If you weren’t tough enough, you were labeled “gay”, and labeling someone as gay was enough to alienate them forever.

I hadn’t realized it until recently, but this kind of environment had some serious effects on me. I remember internalizing this attitude and adopting it for myself, even as a questioning youth who wrestled with his own sexual identity. I didn’t want anyone to think I was gay, so I limited my interactions with male friends. I never dared to hug them, and I certainly would never be caught dead telling any of them that I loved them. This didn’t really make friendships with young women any easier either. There was pressure to view women as sexual objects and to talk about them as such, and when you view women in this way, it is impossible to form any type of meaningful connection with them. For a long time, I was stuck without any emotionally-invested friendships.

This became a little easier when I became a Christian because my church was obsessed with the idea of same-sex friendships. I think a lot of churches are obsessed with this idea because Christian culture is also obsessed with the concept of purity. The idea being that if you spend most of your time with other Christian men, you’ll have less opportunities to fantasize about Christian women (although, I never really had to worry about lusting after women, anyway). This was initially very helpful for me. I was able to develop close male friendships, and to begin to understand how healthy relationships between other men ought to be. We built each other up instead of tearing each other down. At last, it felt like I was accepted.

However, there is a loneliness attached to this seemingly ideal way of life. In my experience, Christian friendships seem to be a way for us to cope with being single. It holds many of us over when we’re not in a romantic relationship. And as soon as we find that special someone, it is made okay (and often encouraged) to invest all of our time into that one person. Friends become less and less of a priority so that romantic relationships can have center stage. Simply put, Christian culture idolizes marriage.

For a gay Christian (especially one who has a traditional view of marriage and sexuality), this loneliness is amplified. I will most likely never marry. I don’t want to. But this doesn’t mean that I’d like to be miserable. I still desire close, intimate relationships with people I care deeply about. I am just choosing not to find that in the context of marriage. The idolization of marriage is lonely for me because I often wonder what will happen when I graduate from college and move away from friends and family. Do I just die alone in an empty apartment, eating stale Chinese food without anyone to actually care for?

If you’re reading this as a straight person, don’t think that this loneliness doesn’t apply to you, too. Because of the fact that so many of us see friendships as a waiting room for marriage, pressure is applied to many heterosexual Christians to find a spouse as early as possible. I can’t tell if this is because Christians see great benefit from marriage or if it’s because we’re afraid of being alone. In either circumstance, this leaves lots of people feeling inadequate when they’re without a significant other. Romantic relationships, like all close relationships, affirm people in the assurance that they are greatly valued and treasured by someone else. That’s a wonderful thing. But like all good things, we have a habit of distorting the goodness of relationships, and treating romantic relationships like they are the only ones that can make us feel whole.

A homophobic culture made me afraid of the intimacy of a friend. For a long time, I felt nervous about expressing affection for male friends. Even today, although I’m better at it now, I still have a habit of shaming myself out of telling someone I miss them, or even just expressing general care. On the other hand, Christian culture gave me a cynical view of friendship. As I got better at expressing myself to friends, I also became more bitter about the possibility of losing them if and when they enter a romantic relationship. This is a painful combination of fear and distrust. To say that this mentality does not produce healthy relationships is an understatement.

In our culture, it’s normal for men to have “buddies” who you call every so often for fishing and poker nights, but not to have friends with whom you confide your deepest fears and greatest joys. It’s normal to leave your friends behind when you find yourself in a dating relationship, but not to stay committed to your friends even when you have a romantic partner. I can’t help but feel like this is backwards. These options don’t result in the best case scenario for anyone. This leaves men without any genuine friendships (and no, your partner is not the only person you need to be your friend).

We need to stop shaming men out of having intimate friendships with one another. It’s a good thing. Having close friends that you look forward to seeing in the future is healthy. Having friends that you can turn to in times of trouble is wonderful. When did it become wrong for men to be emotionally attached to others? All of us experience loneliness from time to time, but I feel like so many men bring it on themselves. Vulnerability is hard, but we shouldn’t stop being vulnerable just because we’re bad at it. Despite what the world around us says, being open and honest builds relationships, and that open honesty should extend to your friends. If it doesn’t, we’re giving ourselves a more bleak and isolated life than God designed us to live.

I’m not destined to die alone in an apartment eating stale Chinese food. Nobody is. We have the ability to reach out and love our friends. And in addition to that, we also have the ability to receive that love. I have great friends, and for their sake and mine, I cannot withhold love from them. The world around me almost scared me out of having intimate friendships, but I refused. Friendship is one of the things that makes life so wonderful. I will not let homophobic attitudes or the idolization of marriage take that away.

 

 

 

“You’re So White”

Throughout my entire life, I have been criticized on a few key areas of my personality. I have heard that I am too feminine, too outgoing, and too sensitive. I have learned how to deal with those types of comments and although they still hurt, they never seem to leave me incapacitated. That’s not to say that I am invincible, though. There is one criticism that always seems to leave me breathless, sucking the life out of me every single time without fail. What is the criticism, you ask? What is the hurtful comment? “You’re so white.”

I am biracial. My mother is white and my father was black. Because of this, I have been stuck in this awkward middle ground in between being too black for some white people, and not being black enough for black people. I know that there is no such thing as being “too white” or “too black”, but that doesn’t change the fact that many people perceive me in those ways, and no matter what I do, someone is going to try to fit me into those boxes. That hurts.

I was raised by my wonderful, courageous, single white mother. I may not resemble her physically, but I do carry her personality traits, quirks, and sarcastic sense of humor. She raised me on a combination of 1960’s folk music and rock radio. From the way I dress, to the way I speak, to the way I present myself, to the way that I dance at college parties, my mother has been very influential in my life. I would say that I am culturally white. Of course I cannot and will not ever deny my blackness, but in the same way, I cannot and will not deny my whiteness.

Although I cannot deny the fact that I am more culturally white, that does not mean that I get to identify as white. My skin is brown. My hair is thick. My nose is broad and my lips are wide. I am still racially profiled and I still carry the weight of the subtle brand of racism that is present in today’s America. Some white people still avoid walking near me on the sidewalk, check their wallets and purses when I pass, and run in terror if I ask for directions in an unfamiliar area. I don’t get to play the white card when someone mistreats me because of the color of my skin.

On the flip side, I am often criticized by some black people for being too white. My jeans are tight. I listen to Green Day. I can’t dance, rap, or play basketball. I am still made fun of for the way I talk. Some black people won’t give me the time of day because I don’t fit in with most aspects of black culture. I don’t get to say, “I’m black too!” as I am mocked for sounding “too white”.

All of this puts me in a very difficult position. If I am too black for some white people, and not black enough for some black people, where am I to go? Am I ever going to be enough for anyone? Am I too white? Am I too black? Am I not white or black enough?

The answer is no. I am not too white or black, but I will also never be white or black enough. I will likely battle these perceptions the rest of my life. All I can ever hope for is for someone to be willing to listen to my story and to begin to understand the way that I am. I cannot and will not apologize for speaking or dressing the way that I do. And I cannot and will never apologize for the skin that I wear. I’m not sorry for the man that God has made me to be. No one should have to feel sorry for who they are. All I can ask is that before you decide that I’m “so white”, that you take a step back and try and understand the weight of that statement.

I am a person made in the image of the living God. I’m not “too” or “not enough” of anything. God gave me the life that I live, the experiences that I encounter, the mother I was raised by, and the skin that I am in… and I’m not sorry.

Loving LGBTQ+ Neighbors

I’m just going to jump right into this- I am a celibate gay Christian. I came out of the closet a little over a year ago. I told my school that I was gay in a newspaper article about my theological views on same-sex relationships. Then, I told my family in a series of letters. The people that God has placed in my life have been nothing but supportive and affirming in my journey. My close friends have created space in their lives for me to discuss the tension I feel between my faith and my sexual orientation. I have been covered in love since I told everyone about this piece of my life. For me, coming out has meant being supported on a deeper level by close friends and family. This is not the case for many other LGBTQ+ teens and young adults.

For many, coming out of the closet means a lifetime of rejection from their parents. For others, telling people they’re gay means years of torment from their peers. And tragically, for countless teens across America, coming out of the closet is a death wish. Bullying from students, parents, teachers, and church members alike has led to the unfortunate truth behind the suicide rates of LGBTQ+ youth.

This is not comfortable for us to come face-to-face with, but it is the harsh reality we must face. I think that too many Christians give a default response to the LGBTQ+ community, saying that they disagree with their lifestyle. However, teen suicide is not a matter of whether or not you support same-sex relationships. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a much higher risk for self-harm and suicide than the average American. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth. And those that have been rejected by family and/or friends are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ+ youth who have not been rejected. The statistics go on and on.

I am not okay with this- nobody should be. There are not as many statistics about this, but I would not be shocked if many teens who have been rejected by their families have grown up in a church. That saddens me. As Christians, it is our duty to love our neighbor regardless of the circumstances. Love is patient and kind. Love is not self-seeking, it’s not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Why doesn’t that description of love define how we treat members of the LGBTQ+ community? Why is it that so many young people are rejected by their families, bullied in school, and feel little to no support?

There is a misconception among Evangelicals that the legalization of gay marriage has made LGBTQ+ among the widely accepted group of people, with Christians being the ones who are persecuted in schools. I graduated public high school as a Christian in the #1 most post-Christian city in America. The “persecution” I faced was at its worst, a teacher asking me not to reference the Bible in a research paper, or a group of students mocking my disagreement with abortion. This is hardly persecution. I was not “out” in high school, but I watched my gay and lesbian friends become the victims of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. In fact, a huge reason why I did not tell many people in high school that I was gay was because of the bullying that my friends faced, as well as the fear of being rejected by my own church.

We as humans cannot not communicate. We communicate through our affirmation and rejection, through our hugs and our glares, and through our vocalization and through our silence. The heaviest of these (in my opinion) is silence. When we see the statistics and meet the faces of rejection and then say nothing, we are contributing to the problem. We need to listen to our LGBTQ+ neighbors. We need to see them as Christ sees them- as people. Silence dehumanizes people because it often communicates that they are not worthy of our time or attention.

What I’m not saying is that you need to change your theological stance and affirm same-sex relationships. I simply believe that you can be loving to the LGBTQ+ community and still hold your theological views. I think what stops a lot of Christians from loving their queer neighbors is the fact that they do not affirm same-sex relationships and don’t want anyone walking away with the impression that they do. I believe in my heart of hearts that you can absolutely be conservative in your theological views and still be safe and loving people for LGBTQ+ friends to come to in a time of crisis. All it takes is a simple, “I love you”, or listening to their stories without a prepared statement of the doctrine that you subscribe to. Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriages is a highly debated, theological discussion. The concept of loving your neighbor is not.

I think the church needs us to step up and speak life into situations, especially situations covered in suicide and despair. We can speak life by telling our neighbors that they are so loved and valued by the King of Heaven, that they have been wonderfully made in the image of their Creator. We can speak life by telling them that Jesus died on a criminal’s cross in order to bring us life and salvation. We can speak life by making ourselves safe people to talk to. But the narrative that says the LGBTQ+ are our enemies and people to be afraid of has not produced good fruit. Condemning them before they even get a chance to speak has led to the untimely deaths of many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens. Again, this is not me saying you need to change your theology. This is me saying that your views about what God thinks about same-sex relationships should not create a blockade in the way of Christ’s love for the outcasts.

If you’re interested in my theological stance:

http://www.houghtonstar.com/2015/11/14/the-missing-voice-lgbt-discussion/

 

Church vs. Self

This post won’t be long- I don’t really think it needs to be. I would just like to comment on the infighting that seems ever so present within the Church today.

Every single time I go on Facebook, I see at least six politically-fueled rants. Often times, I’ll see arguments explode in comment sections of videos and blogs. And even worse, I’ll see indirect attacks on people’s character. And who do I see at the forefront of these arguments? Often times, fellow Christians. Christians who go to church together on Sunday morning, yet totally disregard each other the following Tuesday. Christians who will listen to each other pray at a Bible study, but not to the concerns that are heavy on their hearts. These days, it seems like Christians only ever unite on a Sunday.

It seems like the Church is the most divided it has been in a long time. However, I’m wondering is this a unique time in the history of the Church, or if I’m just noticing it more because of the advent of social media. For the sake of the people of God, I hope it’s the former, because if it’s the latter, we may be in serious trouble.

If it’s a unique time in the Church’s history, then we have the comfort in knowing that we have never faced such divisions, so we’re all just trying to learn together. But if the fragmentation of the Church is a long repeated pattern, then we have no excuse. Spoiler alert: this is not the first or the last time that church has been or will be divided.

I want to have hope, and I want to be able to say that it will get better. I don’t have that assurance. As long as we are interested in hearing our own voices, and not the voices of the people we’re talking at, we’re in for more divisions in the church. As long as we purchase the lie that standing with one side means fighting against another, we’re in for so much more hostility. Are we okay with that? It seems like we are.

In order to hear my words, you must first silence the comments that you are preparing in this very moment. That may be impossible for some of us to do. But I hope someone reads this and considers the consequences of a divided Church and aspires to step away from the status quo. We need to stand together in order to shine the light and love of Christ in a dark time. If we cannot stand together, we might as well take our light, hide it under a bushel and call it a day.

 

How Do I Respond to a Divided World?

I will be the first to admit that I love social media. I update my Instagram every other day and I use Facebook daily. I feel pretty good about my knowledge about the latest memes, viral videos, and events in pop culture. I see the beauty in social media, and I like to think that I take full advantage of it. But, social media also has a dark side.

As of late, my Facebook feed has been covered in hashtags, 30 second videos, and emotional blog posts written from all sides about abortion, women’s rights, the refugee crisis, racial inequality, and the sufferings of the LGBTQ+ community. One would have to be crazy if they were to say that they did not feel overwhelmed by it all. How can you not be overwhelmed? I want to share an article in support of one friend’s stance on a social issue, but my support for that person may feel like a slap in the face to another. Quite frankly, I’m afraid to even click on anything controversial because I know that someone is watching me, taking cues, and trying to figure out where I stand on these topics.

In such a divided world, I understand that silence simply isn’t enough. I cannot remain silent while millions of people around the world are being removed from their native countries, and being placed into foreign lands with strange languages, people, and cultures. I cannot remain silent while many racial minorities feel slighted by the election of our 45th president. I cannot simply say nothing when women don’t feel heard, when queer people feel at odds with their faith, and when my white friends are afraid to converse with me in the midst of severe national tension.

At the same time, where is my place to speak? Do I speak up for every single issue that I have some sort of opinion about? Do I spark debates on Facebook in order to be sure that my opinion is heard? Is it okay for me to disregard anyone’s feelings as long as the world knows where I stand? Do I as a racial and sexual minority have an obligation to speak up in troubled times? Do I as a Christian have the duty to declare God’s Word at every point of conflict? These are the questions that I have not yet found the answer for.

Is it worth being heard in a world that seems very concerned with voicing an opinion without listening to the opposing side? Is it worth speaking up if no one can hear me over the sound of their own voices?  Is it worth becoming a bystander to social injustice and the destruction of a family? Is it worth becoming apathetic in the face of ignorance and hatred?

I don’t know. I am clueless about most of these issues and I am afraid to learn more. I see lots of people with bold opinions, but I question whether they are actually informed, or just too afraid to be proven wrong. I see lots of people who remain silent, but I question whether they are wisely avoiding pointless conflict, or if they are just too afraid of the tension.

I choose to speak. However, I choose not to rely on my words to dominate the conversation. I choose to lean on my actions to do the talking. I will let the way I conduct myself to become a protest to those saying that there will never be another African-American president. I will let compassion become a picket sign to those suggesting that Muslim lives are not as valuable as a Christian’s life. My love will be a testament to the fact that it is possible to listen to others in a very noisy world. And by the grace of God, my life will be a story of how one can still love Jesus and practice His commandments in a world that teaches you that the key to success is pride.

In today’s world, I think it is vital that our actions become our words; that talking would not be the end goal, but rather we could focus on practical steps in creating a better world. I dream of a time when our boldness and aggression would not be the marks of righteousness, but rather our ability to love our neighbors would make clear what is right and wrong. I choose to let my actions speak for themselves. I choose to let love dominate the conversation.

Is this enough? Maybe. Maybe not. But at the end of the day, I have to ask myself which is more important: being heard, or hearing others?