The impulse to react in anger is strong. It fuels us to action and feels productive. But it’s ineffective. To speak in a way that others can hear you requires power fueled by something else.
Uma Thurman has been in several movies produced by Harvey Weinstein. Over the past several weeks, as dozens of women shared their stories of harassment, assault and rape, her silence has been notable. Last month, an Access Hollywood reporter asked her about the allegations against Weinstein.
Here is what she said:
I don’t have a tidy sound bite for you, because I have learned — I am not a child — and I have learned that when I’ve spoken in anger, I usually regret the way I express myself. So I’ve been waiting to feel less angry, and when I’m ready, I’ll say what I have to say.
Her words alone do not fully capture the depths of her statement. For the full effect of her remarks, you must watch the video, to hear and see how she says it.
WOW. So much respect.
At a time when it seems that everyone is caught up in anger and outrage, feeling the need to speak louder, Thurman is taking a different approach.
She is clearly aware of the power of words, the power of her voice, and the power of her platform.
Most of all, she is aware of the Power of the Pause.
We MUST Speak Up
To be clear, speaking up and speaking out are important. We must give voice to that which has been kept silent for too long. The floor of abuse victims who are now stepping forward underscores why we must create a safe container for people to be heard.
Some things have been kept under the cover of darkness for too long. It is essential that we shine a light on them.
This is not up for debate.
Just as important — sometimes more important — is knowing when to stay silent.
Reactions that come from a place of outrage, no matter how well-intentioned, are still reactions.
Automatic. Triggered. Habit.
And while they are well-meaning, they are ineffective.
Anger has a short fuse
Anger and outrage can feel productive. They give us a sense of power, fuel our drive to create change and propel us to action.
But anger and outrage don’t sustain our action. Even a raging fire eventually burns out. So every day we find something new to spark our fire: Politics. Shootings. Terrorism. Media coverage.
Every day, stuff happens that gives us good reason to be angry. We become addicted to the anger and outrage to keep our fire raging, in the belief that this empowers us to effect change.
Those feelings of power and productivity are illusions.
True power lies in compassion, not anger. It lies in empathy, not outrage.
We find our power in the still, small voice — not the big, bellowing yell.
The power is in the pause.
Feel it First
To be clear, I am not saying “don’t get angry.”
It is essential that we feel our emotions. We cannot heal what we are unwilling to feel.
To effect sustainable change, we must speak so that others can hear us. To be heard, we must first allow ourselves to feel.
So if you’re feeling angry, then, by all means, feel it. Be in it. But don’t react from it. When you react in anger, you deflect the emotion, instead of feeling it.
Uma Thurman is clearly feeling anger and outrage. You can hear it in her voice. You can see it in her face and feel her clenched jaw and gritted teeth. She is in it. She is enraged.
And yet she also understands a fundamental truth:
People cannot hear what we speak in anger.
When you react in outrage, you drown out your own message.
Power Comes From Presence
In her brief statement, Thurman said much more than what others have said in anger. She didn’t gloss over her emotions by speaking loud, empty words. She was precise, piercing, present.
Feeling. Observing. Witnessing.
When we are present to our feelings, and we pause to process, we emerge with much greater power. In that pause, we connect with the passion that will sustain our efforts.
Strength comes through stillness.
Results flow from reflection.
The power is in the pause.
This is how the feminine will rise.