I’ve mentioned that people have generally seen me as “talkative.” What’s funny is how little time I ever spent saying much of anything. How much energy I expended trying to say the right things. The things I was sure wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers…at least not the feathers of people whose admiration I so desperately wanted. The way I’d exhaust myself, talking myself around topics, trying to take up time so I could avoid having to be bold…having to say something that could cause another to disagree. The time I spent talking, which kept me from having to really look inside…really face my pain…and be exposed before myself, God, and others.
When I would feel frustrated and angry with someone, I’d avoid them or skirt around the issue. I’d think, perhaps this is what it means to become a quiet and gentle spirit, to quote scripture. But what was I really doing? I was being a coward. I was living in fear. I was avoiding reconciliation and the opportunity for grace and forgiveness. Often times, bitterness grew in my heart, but I decided it was okay to keep quiet. After all, I wouldn’t want to blow up…I wouldn’t want to sin more…
I chose to silence myself. And in doing so, I silenced my soul.
To be completely honest, even if I’d wanted to use my voice, I wouldn’t have had a clue how or what for. My life and identity was so wrapped up with whatever I perceived people to be thinking of me…I was a like a chameleon changing with the varieties of people I was with, having no solid ground of “this is me” to stand on.
I would say that loss of identity and silencing oneself often go hand in hand. If someone struggles with not knowing who they are (what makes them unique and separate from others, their passions, likes, dislikes, convictions, boundaries, etc) it makes sense that they might struggle with insecurity, living for the approval of others, and consequently, silencing themselves.
What makes me sick to my stomach, is that in the Christian world, particularly for women, this can become so destructive, twisted, and de-humanizing, because of what we’re taught. Think of what our complementarian teaching in the church often stresses:
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.-1 Tim. 2:11-12
4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. -1 Peter 3:4
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. -Ephesians 5:22
Those are all taken from the ESV version of the Bible. But this is my issue. Think of a woman who struggles with self-esteem, lack of confidence, insecurity, feelings of worthlessness (my guess is this is far more women than you think), and then READ these verses that we stress. (Don’t get me wrong, this is applicable to men as well!) Please tell me you can at least see how we can take the scriptures…the beautiful words from God, and twist them into something that can be used to push a person deeper into the struggles I mentioned…robbing them of life…
I can tell you from experience and seeing it first hand that these scripture are truly often used to justify a woman silencing herself, even when it’s clear the right thing is to step up, speak up, and give herself a voice!!
…But paralyzing fear says things like this… “I’m afraid to say something…or maybe it’s just that I’m not supposed to. Maybe this is my cross to bear. Maybe I just need to deal with this in my heart. Maybe my husband should speak on my behalf. Maybe it’s more loving to keep my mouth shut. I’m not that important anyways…I don’t need to be heard…maybe I’m just being selfish. I mean…scripture DOES say women should be quiet, meek, and gentle….”
THIS IS AN ISSUE. THIS IS NOT OKAY. THIS IS NEVER NEVER NEVER OKAY.
In my own life, when I was in the deepest of my depression, I was convinced I was going to become a “mute.” You can laugh at that, but I truly feared it. I had come to a point of silencing myself so much that the sound of my own voice scared me. I felt so life-less, so hollow, that I believed I had nothing worth saying and nothing worth being heard. The more I kept silent…the more I believed these things…the more difficult it became to ever imagine wanting to be heard…
I can do nothing now but thank God for where I’m at. Like I’ve shared throughout my posts, my life is changing. Drastically. Much of this has been through counseling, which I am a HUGE advocate of. (well…GOOD counseling) It’s also what’s leading me to pursue my own masters in mental health counseling at a seminary.
But this is a journey and I hope I’ll continue to grow and change… I still catch myself silencing myself or saying what I think others want, rather than what I want to say. But I know now…I know God has given me a voice to use. That it’s a gift to be used for good. To be used to honor my heart and the sacred things therein. I suppose this blog is one avenue I’ve embraced to practice giving myself a voice. I’m a work in progress, but I really wanted to write on this now in hopes it may bring a bit of freedom to others. I know there is more to say on this, but this is it for now. Cheers.
From my heart,