It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. In fact, quite the opposite. I had a lot to say. It’s just that my words got stuck somewhere between my heart and my throat as the memory of the verbal attack hung thick in the air around me. As the words played on repeat between my ears like an annoying chorus to a song I wished I hadn't heard. The words were out there and couldn’t be retracted. Launched like a ballistic missile designed to create a nuclear war and the target was my heart.
At the moment, I retreated to a safe place somewhere deep within, took a deep breath and straightened my face and my spine as I listened to the unfurling of what I knew to be untrue about myself. I am a person who writes about being vulnerable and the importance of sharing your story and the truth that once you’ve made peace with your story, it no longer matters what other people think. But in this unwelcome moment, my vulnerability was being used against me causing me to question what I knew to be true.
So like an automatic setting, my mind began to rehearse all of those mental practices in my mind. I reminded myself of all the things I claim to believe and encourage my readers to embrace and live out. But as the days turned into weeks, my posture began to slump a little. I began to have increased trouble getting out of bed in the morning and looking in the mirror became more of a side glance that I would steal. I stopped writing. I became reclusive. I didn't want to talk, even to those that I love the most. I stopped allowing my words to circulate into the world that I have no control of.
The nagging fear that I couldn’t silence was that if one person felt this way about me, maybe that is the perception that others have too. My mind became amnesic of responses I received in the past from readers who connected with my words and the story I never wanted. Forgotten were the moments when I stood with eyes locked with another as they thanked me for being vulnerable and for giving them the courage, to be honest with their own story.
I will protect myself, I thought. I will sit here in silence until it feels safe to come out again, even if that means for the rest of life.
And then the knock came from the One who knows this heart and cares more about my reputation and my story than I ever could. It came in the form of a phone call like His hand was being held out to me with an invitation to stand again, even if my legs felt shaky and weak.
“You must get up because there is someone else who needs your story.”
Listen to what I’m about to say.
You are going to have critics and naysayers.
You are going to have people who misinterpret your words and your heart.
You are going to have people who hear you talk for five minutes and think they really know you.
You are going to have people say things about you that are brutal. Even if just behind your back.
It's not an “if,” but a “when.” It is guaranteed.
Tell your story anyway.
There is someone out there who needs your story. There is someone who needs to know that you survived and what you learned along the way and that they too are going to make it through to the other side.
Get off the bench. Stand up again. Come out of the silence. Get back into the ring.
You are the only one who has lived your story from your perspective, and the bravest thing you can do in this life is to find the courage to tell it.