I think the most important thing that helped me lay aside the mask was Quaker worship. Sitting there in the silence helped me come to understand my issues better, and then I'd realize I was supposed to share that insight with the rest of the group. I'd grown up eating shame for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so when I knew I was supposed to speak, I'd say to God, "You really want me to tell THAT?" I didn't want to go on and on, turning worship into a cheap form of therapy. But I'd sit there awhile, and the words would be given to me, the words that would briefly state the context in which my insight was helpful. I'd stand and speak, and sit down, and the other worshippers would tell me later I'd been helpful. One of the rewards of greater openness about who I really am was that other worshippers began sharing who THEY really were, too. Often they came to talk privately. One of the consequences of being who I am in public is that I can hear others' pain without defending against their pain. You use the word "safe," Parker Palmer; safety can be contagious, both inwardly and outwardly.
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