Stop Shutting Up!

“Get your butt back in here, you BLEEPity BLEEP BLEEP #$%*@!!!!”

I had just thrown open the glass doors of our church building and loudly hurled the UNMENTIONABLE words from my tiny eight-year-old mouth. The forbidden utterance bounced off the windshields of empty vehicles; blew through the hair nets of grandmas nimbly leaning on their walkers; and a parking lot full of people appeared to turn in my direction.

Perhaps they expected to find a one-eyed, toothless pirate--born on the high sea with crude cuss words engraved in his mouth. Or surely the words came from one of the troubled teenagers or drug addicts that were often brought to church by a hopeful social worker.

No. There I stood--eight years tall, long brown hair and peach toned glasses.

I was the youth pastor’s daughter that everyone in a church of 1,000 attendees knew.

parking lot.jpg

 

Later that evening, as I stood in my Care Bear nightgown, brushing my teeth for bed, the phone rang. One of my dad’s most faithful adult youth group volunteers had called to resign. His reason was simple. How could he respect or serve a pastor who raised a child that spoke that way?

My parents were visibly upset. For the first and last time in my life, I experienced the silent treatment. I went to bed with the weight of their disappointment lying next to me. No kisses goodnight or bedtime prayers. The following day, I arose to a silent breakfast, and the car ride to school was void of the normal last minute instructions or goodbye.** {more on this story below}

By the time I was 14, my teenage tongue sharpened. Although my fondness of cuss words was gone, I loved to gossip and I possessed the aptness of crafting insults that made more than one person cry. I discovered I had some sort of power with words. However, the triumph soon faded. I grew tired of my mouth’s unbridled power. It was my Achilles heel to be tamed. My sweet, old grandma Juanita’s voice echoed in my head: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

And so...I stopped talking.

Of course, I did not become mute, but I learned to NOT say everything in my heart or mind. My silence became the bulletproof vest I provided for those I loved. My quietness helped them remain safe. Every one noticed the difference. My words became softer and kinder. My heart also experienced a transformation.

Quietness became a part of me. Simply put, I had learned to finally shut up. Learning to control our tongues is an absolute necessity. Backstabbers will not be remembered for bringing life into the room. Gossips will never be the trustworthy that are granted access into one’s treasure chest. Mean and selfish people are not invited to celebrate life’s most memorable moments. Sometimes learning silence is a good thing. I’ve always secretly felt pride that I developed into a strong person who chooses to remain quiet and mysterious.

Yet in my speechlessness, I also discovered something ugly embedded: jealousy and selfishness. There were times that words deserved to have been spoken lavishly, and I remained protective and tight-lipped. 

I love to sing, and have spent my entire life perfecting my vocal chords; learning piano and music theory; pushing through stage fright. Then a singer, who obviously was born with a gift from God, gets on stage. They write their own songs, sing beautifully without a formal education, and move the room. I shut up and start to make a list of their weaknesses in my head.

She is gifted; no doubt. But, she is a bit pitchy. She didn’t hit all the notes right, and her vowel production was not in perfect form, and maybe I would write songs as well as her if I had been given the same opportunity and BLEEPITY BLEEP #$%*&^!

I leave the room, shooting the performer a kind smile, but I remain quiet.

I love to write and am focused on finding opportunities to improve my craft. Then I meet an author whose English mastery and creativity of thought astound me. They have an undeniable power with the written word that captures hearts in the rhythm of their story.

I can’t deny that he is a good writer. Wow…his creativity is genius. Well, I could be that good too if I hadn’t lost so many years doing other things – working, raising kids, surviving life overseas. BLEEP BLEEP triple BLEEP!

I don’t leave a comment on their blog letting them know how gifted they are. Even my typing fingers remain silent.

He is a charismatic leader that everyone trusts and easily follows. His gift to communicate and move a team of people towards a goal is simply remarkable. Inner strength, clarity of thought, wisdom--he has them all. A good salary, beautiful wife and home too!

I’ve never experienced someone so gifted at leading. It really is unbelievable how loyal our team is to him and how much he inspires us to accomplish. But really, I would be the same if I was given the same opportunity! I should have his job. With that same responsibility, I would shine too. Plus, doesn’t he come from a rich family that just paid for his Harvard MBA? What could I do if I came from such an easy life and #$%&@ BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP?

We notice someone else’s undeniable gifting, strength and beauty and we simply remain silent.

Imagine a world where we all just STOP SHUTTING UP!

Push down your own insecurity. Don’t allow jealousy to bind your tongue. Start speaking up.

  • If you see an innately beautiful woman, tell her!
  • If you experience a gifted teacher, let them know!
  • If you are led by diplomatic leader, call it out!
  • If you feel someone stir the hearts of men through their voice, writing, or art, don’t leave the room without saying so!
  • If your wife, husband, or child does something incredibly brave, capture the moment!

Be extravagantly generous with your words! Find peace. Be confident and know that you also have something worth noticing (but many are also too quiet to mention). And simply just STOP SHUTTING UP!

We need to live in a world where people stop fixating on themselves; their own weaknesses, strengths and dreams. When we catch a glimpse of greatness in someone, let’s not waste the chance and privilege to speak life. They, too, may be weary from the battle. Your words can reignite the flame that sustains them through the night.

May someone overhear you praising someone’s great work near the water cooler at work. Your children will learn from you, as they stand by your side, when you take a moment to pour life into someone else before rushing back into a frazzled schedule.

Don't fool yourself! There is NO RULE against giving someone a genuine compliment. We often tell ourselves that it is not acceptable in our culture or it may make the other person feel awkward. These, in truth, are just more excuses for us to escape the power of being vulnerable with someone. It can be scary, but everything that requires bravery and generosity usually is. No doubt--you were made to be one of the courageous ones!

Over the past year, I have made a vow to fight jealousy and stop shutting up. Although a difficult habit to start, the more I do it, the more jealousy dies inside of me and the more extravagant my generosity becomes.

Recently, I ate at a local Tallinn restaurant. Our waitress was professional, attentive, pleasant and her green eyes simply shined. I could feel that she was uncomfortable as I observed her around the cafe, so I finally approached her. 

“You are so excellent at your job. Kindness just radiates from your eyes. Keep up the good work!”

Those simple words transformed her face. Her hand grasped her chest, and she was visibly touched. Her lips couldn’t contain the huge smile that emerged while her green eyes seemed to glow a bit brighter. I am confident that those words will help carry her some day in the near future. When a restaurant patron is rude, or a boyfriend tries to convince her beauty or personality are not worth sticking around for, she will have one more voice to recall in her doubt.

Let’s try an experiment together. EVERY TIME we notice something beautiful, great, courageous or admirable in someone, let’s speak it out.

No more excuses.

No more brooding jealousy.

No more silence.

Let’s watch their, and our, worlds change.

I have thrown open the church's doors. I stand firmly and raise my voice loud enough so that you and all the grandmas in the parking lot can hear. I am looking at you.

"It is time to stop shutting the BLEEPity BLEEP BLEEP up, already!"

{And, sorry, mom and dad!}

___________________________________

**I will always love and trust my parents. When I grew older, my parents apologized to me for the way they treated me on that day after my inner pirate was exposed to the church. They explained that I have always been more important than their ministry, church, or what other people thought. They were sorry for allowing one person’s opinion of a very normal thing {an eight-year-old trying out cuss words} ever get in their way of showing me love. Another lesson lies in this. As parents, we are bound to screw up. We don’t, however, have to just shut up and hope our kids will never remember our mistakes. Speak it out and ask for forgiveness. Even if years have passed, you still have the chance to speak life and teach your kids how it is done. They will love you for it.