The process of "finding my voice" was long and emotionally arduous, but I'm grateful for the journey. And, in a way, I feel I've earned the right to speak up because of what I went through to get here.
Besides that - and more importantly - the issues about which I most frequently speak out (primarily the superiority of home education over other forms of schooling, conservative political views, and issues that encompass living as an active Christ-follower in this culture) are really passions implanted in me by God. I am not at all equating myself to the prophets, but I think I have an inkling of what they felt, because I feel compelled to speak the truth on these matters. I could make fewer waves if I kept quiet, but it feels like I betray God when I do that.
I try to be firm and gracious at the same time even as I know that I'm obviously not perfect in that regard. And I think I either see my own errors when I become too harsh or am at least willing to apologize when a valid concern is brought to my attention. I really do want to be kind in my convictions, not rude or "tough."
But some people - especially on Facebook - have been taken aback by my opinions. Not because of how I've expressed them but simply because I have them and continue to speak them. These people either berate me, scolding me for speaking my mind, or give me the cold shoulder to register their disapproval...which really hurts when it's people I also know in real life.
I am most certainly not averse to engaging in meaningful discussions; after all, if I write and speak about controversial matters, I have to be willing to take the heat. But I've also determined that I'm not up for fruitless argument on the one hand - i.e., going round and round with no hope of resolution - or for feeling stiff-armed by those who are supposed to be friends but who happen to disagree with me on a particular notion.
And so, as of tomorrow, I'm going to "protect" those people from me.
I'll be creating a list - The List - of friends who don't mind my opinions. A person on The List needn't always agree with me, and I certainly hope we'll all engage in meaningful discussion about a whole slew of topics. But list members must agree to not be offended by my opinions even when they disagree. That is, by asking to be on The List, they're giving me permission to speak my mind, and they'll still love me anyway!
I'll probably post mostly to The List from now on because I'm not one to use Facebook for a lot of "fluff" (i.e., what I'm eating for dinner). I'd rather post and talk about significant life issues, so that's going to mostly limit me to The List from now on. But I've also made a commitment to those who've not asked to be put on The List: they will only hear from "Nice Girl Tina," never "Opinionated Tina." Of course, they might not hear from me often - they might even start to wonder where I've gone - but at least they won't have to face the "torture" of being offended by my views anymore.
As one young friend (who asked to be on The List) pointed out, I shouldn't have to do such a thing. And he's right, of course. Family members and friends should be able to agree to disagree and still respect and genuinely care about each other anyway. But maybe - just maybe - if the folks who can't do that start only seeing "Nice Girl Tina," they'll stop shunning me.
A girl can hope, right?