The past few months, I’ve experienced some major vocal challenges. Singing has been uncomfortable and sometimes painful, especially high notes. (Not great news in my line of work.) My first vocal coach was very concerned and offered a discouraging diagnosis. I shared her concerns with Charlynn, a bestie since college, and before I’d finished the entire story, she interrupted and insisted I see a vocal coach she knew who had expertise in this area. I don’t mean she politely suggested I see him – I mean she insisted, with a passion, that I see him immediately–she would set up the appointment herself. At first, her vehemence was off-putting. Would another coach really offer a different diagnosis? But I know Charlynn loves me and her experience with this coach only confirmed I should listen to her. Charlynn was right. After five lessons with her coach, my vocal problems are beginning to disappear. Hooray!
This got me thinking about how thankful I am for wonderful, truth-telling friends. Charlynn has had to speak to me honestly about everything from bad hair to bad relationship choices. That takes love. My great friend, Pepper, who designs my website, is honest about images and posts that just don’t work. That takes courage. My fabulous friend, Kathy, lets me know when the outfit I’ve chosen should stay locked in the closet. That takes kindness and consideration. The wonderful Andrew and Kyle tell me if I have mascara on my face before we go on stage. That takes extra loving attention on their part. And Kori, another close pal, fills in the rest of the truth I might have missed. Bless them. It takes a village to raise me.
My friends are much better truth-tellers than I am. I like to think I speak truth to those closest to me, but I realize I don’t tell the truth as often as I should. Why? I fool myself into thinking I don’t have the right to speak. Who am I to know the best answer? What if I hurt someone with my words? What if my advice is just plain wrong? What if others think I’m an idiot after I’ve opened my mouth? (Anyone else know this feeling?) If I’m honest, though, the reason I don’t tell the truth is because I’m thinking of myself more than my friends. Notice how all these excuses are about me. Ouch.
In my silence, I’m contributing to a crisis. We live in a world where a few voice their opinions loudly, and the rest of us sit quietly by, politely listening and changing the subject when we can. I, for one, would love to hear a discussion among friends with different political or theological opinions. Can we even do that these days?
I once heard Eric Metaxas, author of a wonderful Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography, explain that Hitler got too much power too quickly largely because no one would speak up. Bonhoeffer himself said, “…. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” He was, of course, pleading with a people who were witnessing and experiencing atrocities beyond what we can imagine. Yet the call to speak up is the same. If we are convinced something is wrong, wouldn’t we want others to know and understand why we feel this way? If we truly love our closest friends and care for those in our space, wouldn’t sharing our hearts be the right thing to do? Perhaps if we offered our opinions and risked embarrassment, we could actually enter into deeper discussions and come up with meaningful solutions – together.
We do have permission to speak. God gave us that permission when He created us with mouths and perspectives and life experiences that are uniquely our own. He creates ways to speak to us – through nature we experience, books we read or music we listen to. We hear Him in His word and the words of those around us. He speaks truth and comfort and life. Shouldn’t we do the same? To love someone is to engage with them. Part of this engagement is telling them the truth.
I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s thoughts on truth and love in The Message: “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (Eph. 4:13-15)
So our motivation for telling the truth must be love. My prayer for my own heart is that I will be so compelled by love for my friends, and so overwhelmed by God’s endless, loving pursuit of me, that I will accept permission to speak.
So what about you? Do you ever find yourself wishing you were more comfortable speaking up?