I’m a classic over thinker. It shows up any time I stick my neck out there. I worry. I over analyze. And I constantly second guess myself.
And any time I speak out, I regret it. Sometimes for hours afterwards. I feel over extended. Like I foolishly revealed more than I should have.
I beat myself up. “Jeff, why’d you have to go and say that?” “You should have just kept your mouth shut.” “You should have played your cards closer to your chest.”
I replay these scenarios over and over in my head. I argue my way through imagined disagreements. I try to predict what might happen next and or to anticipate worst case scenarios to make sure I’ve thought through how I would respond next time.
This is a brilliant strategy if the point of life is some sort of verbal chess match. But it isn’t. And lurking behind my hesitancy to speak the hard truth is my real fear of confrontation.
Because there is such a unique pain in awkward moments of truth telling. It is the ugliness of exposure. And I hate the way that feels. Even when it isn’t me that is feeling it. Especially when it isn’t me. It is so much easier to rationalize not speaking as a form of kindness and discretion, when, in fact, it is simply cowardice.
I’m not encouraging here a disregard of discretion or giving permission for more unrestrained opinionating. The world is awash with this sort of chaotic clutter. This isn’t the truth I’m getting at here. Those sorts of words are just thinly veiled accusations, arrogant and violent rhetoric, and its effect is like pollution to the air. We are all choking on that sort of ‘truth.’
No, the truth that I’m talking about here requires courage and speaks with deep conviction, humility, and wisdom. It considers others as more important than itself. It defends not its own territory but that of others. It is both truth and love. And when it speaks, it is willing to show emotion and conviction. Even our passion.
These are muscles I possess but, at times, must admit, feel underdeveloped. And so I’m practicing speaking truth. Trying to work it like any other atrophied muscle group. I’m speaking with more transparency than I’m comfortable with. I’m attempting to show my hand earlier and realizing that what comes with it, a higher level of accountability and potential criticism, is actually for the best.
It allows for myself to be seen. My heart, not just my ideas. And that feels so vulnerable.
The fact is, I deeply want to be liked…to a fault. And I can get stuck right there. But my vocation requires me to be so much braver than that. I don’t mean my job as pastor. I mean my deeper vocation, of who I am. A peacemaker, and not just a peace keeper.
And so I’m becoming more risky with my words and emotions. I’m saying the things closest to my heart, out loud. I’m speaking them directly instead of burying them and later savoring the resentment. And speaking truth like this truly does set us free.
Afterwards, as the voices of my inner critic start to spin, I remember this means I’ve actually been brave. I’m pushing in to that silencing resistance that seeks to restrain me out of fear. And trusting that as I do, my discernment grows stronger and allows me to speak with more honesty, integrity, and truth.
And slowly the voices are diminishing. I’m letting them go. And I’m learning to trust myself just a little bit more.