February 16, 2009

How I Learned to Speak

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. Proverbs 17:28 NIV

This was the scripture that I used as my excuse for not speaking. Can you imagine, a teenager with nothing to say?

The problem was, I had too much to say! I just couldn't decide which of my thoughts to speak. I was overwhelmed with word and subject choices. And as I was worrying over the decision, the fast-talkers would yabber away and leave me "deciding" in their dust!

When I DID say something, I'd often go to that place of FEAR! What if I said the wrong thing? What if I was misunderstood? What if I appeared foolish? What if...? My grandfather had teased my grandmother forty years ago about her "what if" worries. Now here I was, carrying on in her place! My silent times became more frequent, until I noticed that I was only getting quieter.

The longer "I held my peace," the harder it became to speak. The less I practiced communicating, the more embarrassed I became at my attempts. I wasn't overly worried about it until a Bible study revealed that the heart issue was my pride. I was AFRAID that I'd be found to be imperfect, so I hid in an excuse called "shyness". I also learned that "shyness" is just another form of selfishness (in most cases). Instead of making an effort to show I cared about people or their feelings, I closed up in my self! Guess what that got me? I was misunderstood! A friend confided in me that she had initially thought I was a snob!

But I really DID care about others. I just cared about me more!

So, after repenting and prayer, I found a way to learn to speak again.

I had collected names for years--making plans for what I would name my future children. I liked researching their root meanings and looking for scriptures to illustrate an encouraging principle related to that name. I even chose a couple of names for what I thought would be a perfect husband's name for me! (Don't tell him his name wasn't on the list)

I confess right here that I was snobby about my sources. I didn't want someone's interpretation of names, like you see in many baby name books. I wanted the historical, ethnically correct version, if possible.

When I was ready, I put my little "meanings of names" list in my back pocket. I felt equipped to have one meaningful thing to say when I met someone. It worked! In those moments when conversation was strained, I pulled out my list and asked, "Do you know what your name means?"

If it was a difficult name to make positive, like the name Barbara - which comes from the same root as "barbarian", it was a little more work. I would show her that it also means "stranger", and give her the scripture that tells us we are strangers in this land, and that our forever home is in heaven. (In that sense we are ALL "barbarians.")

Look at this - now my profession is words! Wow!