Earning the right to have a voice

Many, many years ago, my college writing teacher visited our town and I was able to hear him read from his new collection of stories.  He wrote about the Heartland, having an obvious love for it and its people.  The writing was honest but respectful and insightful, bringing pride to the locals who read and valued his observations.  In my conversation about writing with him afterwards, he mentioned something critically important that he had not while I was in class: “You have to earn the right to have a voice.  People don’t want to hear what you have to say unless you can show you can be trusted.”

He makes an excellent point.  So about what do we all have a voice?   Especially those of us who are not writers?  Well, plenty!  We all have something to say to the people around us.  Many levels of talk exist but when you’re with someone and you throw in your two cents, you must have first earned the right, in order to be heard.  And don’t we all want to be heard?  Here’s a short list of examples of how people have earned that right.

  •  a parent who has consistently loved and listened
  • an employee who has put in the time and been faithful and reliable
  • a spouse who is always where he/she is when he/she says they are
  • a friend who’s quicker to compassion than judgement
  • a writer/speaker who has lived it before speaking of it
  • a student who shows clear effort and communicates with their teacher

These are the folks who will be heard.  Even though I love to have a good conversation, there are a few places in which I say precious little and I’ve realized that it’s because I either have not earned the right to speak into the situation (lack of experience, haven’t known them long enough) or because I do not trust them with my thoughts (those who have been duplicitous or shown mean-spiritedness come to mind).

However, during the last several days, it’s struck me that the Lord has blessed me with some rich conversations (He knows I love that!)  And each one has been able to reach a depth that only comes when one has earned it.  Just yesterday I came home and said to my husband that I rarely revealed the details of my story to anyone, but I had over lunch to this new friend because she had already earned the right to hear the story.  I was also blessed, when others said, “I don’t know why I just told you that!”  but I knew it was because I had earned the right to listen….and they knew I would keep it in confidence.

So, soon, someone dear to me is going to return my call and I’m going to share what is on my heart about a particular nagging topic.  I have kept it to myself for many years, but I realize that she has earned my trust and I need to tell her.  Will it take courage?  Absolutely.  But that’s what this year is about:  taking a deep breath and diving in.

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