Monday, January 25, 2010

Now Hear This! And This!! And This, Too!!!


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... ;)

13 comments:

karen said...

Wow. WOW - what a great piece! I read every comment too, and gained some insight. I get so back and forth between speaking/not speaking. I grew up in a house where, if you spoke up, you'd better have the same opinion as my parents or your intelligence would be questioned. So I learned to sit silently when I should have been developing ideas and opinions. The other side of the coin is that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and so occasionally I say things (or vent things...) that shouldn't be said. Sometimes the line is blurry. That's when I torture myself with second guessing. Someone commented that sometimes people talk to fill the loneliness in their hearts. I can relate to that one. Everyone wants to feel that they count in this world, that they matter. So they talk, hoping to be heard. I am trying to be a better listener, and to know when to speak, and when to simply give it a rest. One thing I have learned for sure: give compliments freely. Everyone likes them, everyone needs them, and there's no wrong time to give them. So I guess mostly, at this time in my life, I'm more of the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything" persuasion. Sure, it leaves me frustrated at times, but that's better than knowing I hurt someone or made them mad. There are times when I do need to say straightforward things, and I'm working on that.

Em said...

this is something i have toiled with in my head for as long as i can remember. my stepmom is never shy to tell everyone how i started talking at 1 and never shut up. i think i just find life more interesting if i'm taking an active part in a conversation. although, during college i wanted to see what it would be like to listen more and talk less. i thought i was doing a great job of it, but people still seem to describe me as someone who is not afraid to share my opinion. i guess my lesson in life will be to learn to take that as a compliment. not as an insult;-/

KC Mom said...

I have a fear of being heard actually. I hate speaking in front of people. I'm always awkward and have pretty lousy social skills. I wish I had your gift of a need to be heard. I have to write a program for New Beginnings and I have no idea what to do or say. It's no fun not knowing what to say.
Most often I express myself verbally when I'm angry or frustrated. So then, it's pretty obvious I have no skills.
But I am a pretty good listener. :)

Momza said...

Most important element when making the decision to "speak up":
Knowing your audience. To do that, alot of listening has to happen up front.
And have your goal in mind before you speak up--words can build walls or bridges...and my saying, "If you must choose between being right or being, be kind."...has helped me to build more bridges than walls.

Joyful Noise said...

I have recently definitely been the one talking too much. This post was a good "wake-up call" for me. I need to remember to listen more and not analyze and judge too much.

I love your writing and I love to read your thoughts.

Lisalulu said...

I do not like to talk, ok not true, I love to talk but there is a time and place. Usually church is NOT the time to talk, guess thats why I got SO many comments about my talk yesterday, because after 4 years here it was the first time most people had heard me give a talk or speak up. I love people who talk and have an opinion and are not afraid to share it. share it PLEASE

Jess said...

I too am learning to put in the filter. I am amazed at what I learn and what people will say if i just shush and listen. I do love what you have to say though Sue, you make me think (yes it hurts) I I love that

Karen said...

I LOVE to talk. Teach a lesson? sure as long as it is youth. Comment in RS? Yes. The need to be heard? Mostly by those who already know me.

My problem is when I get uncomfortable in front of a group the filter between brain (with the quirky thoughts) and mouth seems to disappear, not a good thing.

I admire those who have the talent for words.

I will follow the link because you never fail to find great stuff.

Hugs to you.

Amy said...

I undoubtedly speak too much. It is something I have tried to quell, but can't seem to. It is a lot better to listen, and so much can be said without words, as the lovely story illustrated, but sometimes things need to be said, and I tend to oversay them.

Fiauna said...

I speak up way too much. I have a tendency to think I have all the answers, or at least know when someone has the wrong ones. I'm learning to speak when spoken to, grant advice when asked for . . .

Kudzu Molly said...

I love your blog. I love your posts!
BTW, I talk too much, too!

Darlene said...

I think it is good to speak out. It often stimulates others who might not be comfortable to give opinions, and I always like to include other people with questions so that they can be heard. Nothing is so boring as to be around a lot of people and not much is going on with conversation. I am learing to use my words, in ways that are good.

Darlene said...

Still, it is somtimes good to just sit back and listen. One can learn a lot by doing this, It's a good thing if one can only learn when to talk and when to listen.

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