on what shuts my mouth

Posted: January 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

A couple of years ago, amidst working through a book on finding one’s God-given purpose or gifting or whatever, I asked several of my closest friends to fill out a questionnaire, measuring their perception of my strengths and weaknesses.  One question asked what they wished I would do more.  Of the 3 friends who were privy to the most inside places of my life, my thoughts, and my heart, 2 of them wrote practically identical answers to this question, though they didn’t even know each other – something along the lines of I wish you would speak up more.  You have so much to share, but you sit there so quiet.  

That’s because of the little voice of doubt in my head.

That little voice has a lot of spiteful messages, but its biggest, most pervasive, and most believable one goes like this:

No one wants to hear what you say.  They are all wishing you would stop talking now.  You should shut your mouth. 

That voice is the reason I will pretty consistently be the quietest person in the room – if I’m not, then you know I feel unusually safe and accepted. 

That voice is the reason I will retreat into silent surrender, almost instantly, if I feel like you push back at me in a hurt or angry or irritated way when I come to you with something. 

That voice is the reason I will gently and quickly find a way to stop talking, if you give me nonverbal cues that you’re not listening. 

My sensitivity to that voice and that message make me extra protective of others, against that message.  This is why when I sit with you, I automatically strive to do everything I can to help you feel HEARD.  I look you in the eye.  Lean forward, maybe.  Make affirming noises.  Say things back to you to show that I’m grasping what you mean.  I don’t play on my phone.  I don’t try to cut your message short – not even if you’ve already said the same thing to me many times before, not even if you are talking long, long, long beyond what most people would deem acceptable for the monopolizing of a conversation.  If someone else comes in the room, I don’t cut away from you to them, even if I am DYING to talk to them.  All of these things are ways I choose directly because of that little voice of doubt, and my vehement determination not to agree with its message saying to the one talking, “No one wants to hear what you say.  They are all wishing you would stop talking now.  You should shut your mouth.”  

I do not EVER want to be in league with that voice.  Not for a second.  Not even if maybe the person might be working overtime to earn such a message, in the ears of many.  This is not a thought-through philosophy of mine, not something I’ve ever put down on paper, not something I have to talk myself through.  It’s my gut reaction and it’s pretty much all the time.

I believe that the loudest lies from the voice of doubt tend to be related to our greatest giftings.  Not bragging here, but beyond my 2 friends mentioned above, actually there ARE people – often it seems A LOT of people – who want to hear what I have to say.  A lot of you encourage me about my writing here.  On the job, I have been asked more than once by coworkers why I won’t please speak up more in meetings.  People on my grat list write to say that my shares change their perspectives.  Someone in my accountability group said awhile back something that made me feel like that E.F. Hutton line…apparently when I am sharing, he wants to hear.  When I taught Sunday school, my students hung on my words sometimes.  When I was in adult Sunday school, people stopped me in the halls to thank me for what I said, or for what I had the nerve to ask.  I’ve had many opportunities to do public speaking to gathered groups, and I pretty consistently get enthusiastic feedback when I do that.

I don’t think I’m extra-special Karen and nobody’s like me in this, but I am willing to go so far as to say I have a gift in the way that I share, on some fronts.  It’s patently NOT TRUE that nobody wants to hear me.  

Still, I hear the lie.  Pretty much always.  I have to choose most every day of my life to push past it and speak up anyway.  

Writing is a beautiful thing to have, for one who gets so easily pressed by this lie.  Even when I don’t have the courage or stamina or whatever to speak up in person, I almost always have a river of words waiting to run out the ends of my fingers.  It feels safer, here on the page – whoever doesn’t want to hear me can just skip or skim.  Sure, maybe when I see them they’ll tell me, “I don’t read your full emails…they are too long.”  Sure, there was the time that I read one editor praising me to another, but using the word “verbose” – and that for sure made me squirm.   But it’s easier for me not to feel squashed and silenced by those kinds of comments, for some reason, than it is for me to keep talking under the withering glare of my perception that someone wishes I would stop talking.     

I’m learning more and more to ignore the, “You should shut your mouth” lie.  It’s a process, but I’m getting there.  Walking more and more in the fullness of what God has gifted me for.  In a million miles, I might arrive at full success.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the journey when I’m on top of the lie, and keep on walking when it’s on top of me.

What else are you gonna do?

What lie does the voice of doubt most convincingly/frequently tell YOU?

  1. Stacy says:

    Wow! That question is not fun. You pretty much know what my lies tell me. “You’re a loser. You’re going to screw up, you always do. People don’t really like you, the are pretending.” Yikes…those lies are so hurtful. It stinks that they are so common that i am used to them. They just make sense anymore.
    That is why i just have to comment here. Karen,i absolutely love it when you speak! I have loved getting to know you better and better because as you become more comfortable with me, you talk more. I know i have a tendency to monopolize conversations. But I’m always pleased when you squeeze in. I’d love it if you would do it more.

    • karen says:

      Yeah, Stacy, I know about those lies. And how persuasive they can be. I believe you are on a journey to learn to hear the falsehood in them, though…I am on that same journey!

      Thanks for your encouragement. I don’t think you monopolize discussions! Working on opening my mouth more. 🙂

  2. linda says:

    My dear Karen I have always loved your writing…God has given you a talent to share with so many you reach. This one I am so familiar with…sounds almost like you were reading my story.

    And you have such wisdom and insight….never let that little voice win….God uses your words…written or spoken.


    • karen says:

      Thank you, Linda, my cheerleader! Wonder what triumphs YOU are about to experience over that little voice…you seem to me to be on the brink…

  3. Golly… so much here rings true [although, as far as I am concerned, I both talk too much and feel safest when writing] yet in a way that doesn’t feel nasty or icky at all.

    I recently realised that I have a “voice” in my writing that is markedly different from my real live in your ears voice. It makes me wonder if the people who like me BEcause of what and how I write would feel the same upon meeting me in person…

    I think I shall think on this one for some time…

    • karen says:

      Thank you, Currie, for hearing my heart! And your voice has been nurturing my journey for years now.

      I too think I come off very different when I write than I do in person. I wonder what our friends who see us more in person would say about that…

  4. Cindy Maynard says:

    I love to hear what you have to say because more times than not your words are an encouragement of a place I am in, have been in or will find myself in. Thank you!

    • karen says:

      Thank you, Cindy! I always love hearing back from you and it’s been fun, growing along together, sometimes nearer and sometimes further but always easily returning to the conversation together…

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