When I was young I didn’t talk much. Oh, I talked a lot with my family and a few close friends, but in a group setting I hardly dared to open my mouth. I turned several shades of red if I thought that too many people in the room were looking at me at once. If someone asked me a question I could barely stammer out an answer because I was so aware of everyone’s attention.
As I got older I didn’t feel quite so embarrassed, but I still stayed pretty quiet. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt” was my unspoken motto. I would explain, “I’m shy” if someone commented on how little I talked in class or in a group. I can remember a situation once when I was studying in Spain during my junior year of college. One of the teachers in our little school got this astute look on her face and commented, “No creo que Robyn es timida.” I was so offended! How dare she insinuate that I wasn’t as shy as I claimed to be! But looking back now, I can see that she was right. I really wasn’t very shy. I could talk and talk with someone once I got to know them. My problem was pride. I didn’t want to talk unless I was sure I had the correct answer or had something profound to add to a conversation. I wanted to be seen as wise and, well, perfect, if I dare admit it. If I would speak too quickly once in a while and have the wrong answer or would say something I considered “stupid” in a group I would feel terrible and really beat myself up mentally for my mistake. Back I would go to keeping my mouth shut and not risking future disgrace.
After I got married and became part of a good church family my silence began to bother me. I was involved in a weekly Bible Study with a group of women, but often I would go through the entire lesson without saying one word! I was learning as I listened to the women around me, but I would get home and feel so bad for not speaking up when I should have. Sometimes I would cry because I wondered what everyone thought of me and my silence. Again, it came down to pride. I was afraid – afraid of making a mistake, afraid of being misunderstood, afraid to show what was going on inside my head and heart.
It was in that same group that I finally overcame my fears and began to talk more. I’ll never forget how freeing it was to study the book, “The Search for Significance” by Robert S. McGee. On the cover it says, “We can build our self-worth on our ability to please others, or on the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.” It was amazing to gradually open up during that study. I finally learned how to base my worth on Christ’s love for me and not on how I came across to other people. I started talking! I still didn’t like some of the things I said at times, I still made mistakes sometimes, but it became easier and easier to “let it go” and not focus on how stupid I was or what people thought of me. How freeing! How reassuring to have God’s love as my measuring rod instead of other people’s opinions!
Lately I’ve been thinking too much about my “big mouth”. It has been tempting to go back to those days when I hardly said a word in a group. I’ve said I was going to do something and then failed to do it – disappointing myself and the person I let down. If you’ve visited The Nest before you’ll know that I used to promise to write again “next month” – but it seems like that seldom happens.
A few years ago I saucily assured my aunt and cousin “By next Christmas I’ll be able to juggle three balls” after they laughed at my first attempts to juggle. Guess what? I can’t juggle three balls yet, and I wish I had never made such a bold statement. It’s a little thing, I know, but my pride says I should be able to juggle. Lots of people can, so why can’t I? When my kids see someone juggling on TV they make sure they point it out because they know it bothers me. I laugh and yell, “Someday I’m going to learn to juggle!” but I don’t really know if it will ever happen.
As we’re in ministry now I’ve also had times where I regret my “big mouth”. Oh, I don’t have a big problem with gossip or anything like that, but sometimes I offer to do something and then wish I hadn’t. At other times I say something in a group and wonder what everyone thinks of me, just like back in the old days, except now I can let it go a little more easily because I know my self-worth doesn’t depend on what I say. I need to be wise in what I say and think before I speak, but I don’t have to be paranoid about every word I utter and every mistake I make.
It’s time to focus again on living for Christ instead of thinking too much about my “big mouth.” It’s time to really think about his forgiveness and acceptance and really enjoy Christ’s love. It’s time to use my “big mouth” to praise Him, love Him, tell others about Him, and really live for Him.
Let me “say” one more thing as I close for now:
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14)
© Robyn Mulder 2006, therobynsnest.org