Monday, January 25, 2010
There's an interesting article over at Segullah entitled "Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace." The writer, Angela, asks some good questions and makes some even better points about when to speak and when not to speak in life. Her essay invites one of my favorite things, self-analysis, and she tacitly encourages the reader to determine on which side of the speaking-or-not-speaking coin he or she lands most often.
I happen to be one who is prone to speak too much rather than too little. (Regular followers will not be startled by this revelation.) When I was in high school, a favorite English teacher once quelled my loquaciousness by explaining to the class, "Sue has a need to be heard." I felt humiliated at the time, but I now realize that what she was saying was no more and no less than the truth. I do have a need to be heard, as three published books (non-published wouldn't have satisfied the need), numerous poems (placed, for the world to see, on a free-for-public-use website), and this oft-updated blog unabashedly testify. I've written articles for online magazines, filled an embarrassing number of journals, created scripts for road shows and church programs without number, and authored short stories galore. In fact, I am happy to share almost anything I can somehow get down on paper (though I admittedly have an easier time sharing things I get down on computer paper, because my
penmanship handwriting is all but illegible). And I rarely say no to an opportunity to speak, either. Nor do I resist the urge to raise my hand (I do try not to wave it around), offer advice (too many times, unsolicited), or give my opinion (too often, unrequested.)
Oh, and one more thing. (If I'm going to tell on myself, I shouldn't forget this.) When I was interviewed for entry into my graduate program in counseling, the woman conducting that interview said rather dubiously toward the end of the conversation, "Well, some people like therapists who talk a lot." Upon honest reflection, however, I did not see this trait as a good thing and spent most of my training learning to be silent and listen. It wasn't easy; it surely didn't come naturally, but it was worth it.
Over the years, I have continued to improve in this area. While I am still happy to speak up in a class or group setting, I no longer have a "need" to do so. In fact, I am frequently able to hold my peace until the Spirit prompts me to say something! Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to change my propensity to voice feelings and opinions. In fact, my patriarchal blessing encourages me to speak my piece when inspired to do so. These days, though, I do tend to wait until I am inspired, which is undoubtedly an improvement over my schoolgirl need to respond verbally or in writing to any and every stimulus that prompted brain activity on my part.
Anyway, Angela's is a good essay and well worth reading. I also like the little story below, which brings the point home for me. (I'd like to list the author, but searching the internet yields only that credit which is every writer's worst nightmare: "Anonymous.") Ah well, I salute the creator of this piece, wherever you are...
"A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.
It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.
The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember, and placed it to one side of the hearth, all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one, lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow before its fire was no more. Soon, it was cold and dead.
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, 'Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.'
We live in a world today, which tries to say too much with too little. Consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken."
Having established that premise (and yet being anything but a black-and-white person), later this week I will be sharing with you a couple of the "sermons" spoken by stake leaders in my husband's singles ward conference yesterday, conclusively proving that those spoken sermons can be pretty good, too!
Don't you love grey area? AND gray area?
(Hmmm...grEy or grAy??...another non-black-and-white issue...)
PS. So, which side of the coin do you fall on?––speaking or not speaking??
(You can sound off on grey and gray, too, if you like.)
PPS. Unless, of course, you prefer to remain silent... ;)