Speaking Truth to Power

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 1 comment

Pope Francis spoke the truth to power at the UN on September 25, 2020

  • This [pandemic] crisis is changing our way of life, calling into question our economic, health and social systems, and exposing our human fragility.
  • The pandemic, indeed, calls us “to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing, a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”.[2]
  • It can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources.
  • One path leads to the consolidation of multilateralism as the expression of a renewed sense of global co-responsibility, a solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of peace and unity within the human family, which is God’s plan for our world.
  • The other path emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life.
  • That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail…. the pandemic can be the occasion for a “defensive retreat” into greater individualism and elitism.

Jesus and St. Vincent

We certainly remember how often Jesus spoke truth to the religious powers of the Scribes and the Pharisees.

St. Vincent spoke his truth to the powerful

While Vincent is best known for his practical works of charity, he also served as an advocate for the poor before the highest authorities, at times at considerable risk to himself. On two occasions he intervened personally to try to bring about peace when war was wrecking the lives of the poor. He went right to the top….

And he paid a price for it. His attempts at peacemaking earned him the enmity of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, who, in his secret diary, records him as an enemy.

Why and how to speak the truth to power

I offer these thoughts from a reflection I found on “Four steps for speaking the truth to power.”


  • The first reason to speak truth to power is that good leaders want feedback.
  • The next reason to challenge the status quo by speaking your truth is that you just can’t live with the way things are.


Before you speak your truth to power,

  • try to understand the reasons for the status quo or for someone else’s opinion or perspective. This new understanding might change your own truth.
  • understand the type of power you are challenging and imagine the potential negative consequences. If someone retaliates, how bad will it be and is it worth it to you?

When you speak your truth to power, the article continues…

  • focus on what is actually happening and what you believe can change. … explain the benefits of the future you want to create and how you want to create it.
  • know that you are likely challenging something that this person is responsible for, or maybe you are threatening someone’s view of the world.  

Speaking your truth 

  • Is there anything that bothers you in what was written above?
  • Can you identify why?
  • Have you thought of voting as speaking the truth to power?

This post first appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk

1 Comment


    Thanks for sharing. It is not easy for some people to speak the truth to those in power because of fear. If the Holy spirit speaks on your behalf, you would never be afraid to speak the truth about what goes on in our world now. Such leaders are surrounded with people who would support her/ him. They bear false witness against the person speaking to the leader, and try to make the person speaking guilty. I can not stand leaders who do not want to listen to the truth being spoken by those termed as enemies, especially when it affects the poor. They just want to be seen as leaders. May we all be inspired by St. Vincent de Paul to always speak the truth without fear. God bless us all.