Learning How to Speak When You Feel Silenced

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I can’t remember what I was doing the day before, but I remember waking up and feeling hoarse.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, we were leaving in a couple of hours for the concert. It wasn’t the worst sore throat I’d ever felt but, it was strange. The tingling feeling kept progressing and by the time I’d reached the van, I could feel my throat tightening.

“Did you take any medicine for it?”, asked one of the young ladies in the group.

“Uhhh, orange juice and some tea,” I responded.

The next words in the conversation became the five most memorable and fearsome words in my life since…

“Do you want some Buckley’s?”

Now, if you’ve never taken Buckley’s, I’m not clear on the ingredients. However, if I had to describe the taste, I would say one part low sugar syrup and nine parts, ammonia. Why someone would purposely drink this, I’ll never know.

I took the prescribed amount and I could feel the tingling in my throat begin to disappear. The minor congestion began to dissipate like fuzz from a dandelion and I could feel my body relaxing.

About 30 minutes later, I turned to my friend to thank her. When I opened my mouth to say the words, nothing came out except air. I had no voice. I was singing the lead for at least two songs at our concert. Not to mention I was responsible for many of the transitions because I was the group leader. But now, I had no voice! What were we going to do?

It can be frightening when we lose something dear to us. It can be even more terrifying when we lose something and we didn’t realize its importance until it was gone.

Imagine Zachariah, standing in front of the angel and hearing the words, “You will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens” (Luke 1:18-20).

To hear the pronouncement is scary enough. But, imagine attempting to speak and nothing coming out. At that moment, he must  have realized his voice was central to his identity. Yes, he had a name and possessions which clarified his existence. But his voice, his unique timbre, and his personal, verbal perspective expressed who he was.

Our voices express who we are. This is why conflict arises when we feel unheard or as if our voices have been taken away. This is the cause of simmering discomfort in so many people, a forced disconnection from their voice or an inability to fully engage their voices. In other words, sometimes our voices are taken from us and at other times we yield our voices through what we allow. And we seem to allow a lot. We allow distraction, comparison, and some of us even allow ourselves to be caught up in the expectations of others before solidifying our personal directives.

Steve Jobs once quipped, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Too many of our voices, powerful dreams and revolutionary ideas die in the seas of our imaginations because we refused to free our minds from the slavery of opinion.

We gave in and allowed ourselves to be muted because, like Zachariah, we refused to believe that we are a part of the miracle. The funny thing about Zachariah was he prayed for a son, and when the angel came to tell him his prayer had been answered, he doubted the answer because his attention was on his immediate circumstance and the opinions of those around him. He told the angel, “I’m old. How can I be sure what you’re telling me is true?”

Check out the irony here. He used his voice to express faith and request a miracle. He lost his voice because he doubted this same miracle.

The same is true for many of us.

We mute our faith and our voice with unbelief.

So, how do I find my voice in the middle of crazy? How do I become ‘heard’ in a world of noise? What can I do to regain my moxie and reclaim my identity through my voice?

Here are 3 steps

  1. Believe there is room for your voice. We hide our voices because we feel swallowed up in the midst of it all. Oftentimes, we assume our experiences are unique to us and no one will listen. Then we hear so many other voices and so we rationalize that there couldn’t possibly be a need for another. But your voice, your specific timbre and pitch is clearly heard by a specific, assigned ear belonging to someone who needs you to be courageous enough to speak.
  2. Eliminate distractions for a time. Yes, there is value in a social media fast. Our world is moving fast and we consume gobs of information every minute. Scrolling down your IG timeline subjects you to ads, other people’s vacations, glorified snapshots of moments they want you to see and constant reminders of material lack. Take some time to ruthlessly eliminate the distraction. Take a personal sabbatical so you can regain perspective, gain clarity and begin to hear your own voice again.
  3. Capture your thoughts. Write your thoughts freely in the morning. Place a notebook on your nightstand and begin to capture the ideas God places within you regularly. He does speak to us and prompt us frequently. We just need to give ourselves the space to listen and capture the voice.

Once we begin to hear our voice again, then we can summon the courage to speak again. And once we begin to speak again, we can know who we are and whose we are again. Then, once we know who we are, we won’t be silent anymore.

The concert? I ended up playing. On that day, my voice came through my fingers. May you find the courage to make sure that no matter what room you’re in your voice is never silent.

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