How to liberate your words when fear is holding them hostage

If you’re finding it difficult to find the words that follow the “How are you?” question these days — chances are, your words are being held hostage by fear. 

You know what you want to say. The words are right there at the tip of your tongue – but they don’t come out.  Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Like many of us, you’re struggling right now.  You don’t know how to, or if you’re like me, prefer not to share your insecurities with others.

You don’t want to appear weak, be judged, or give the impression that you’ve lost your faith or, worse, have people question if you ever had faith to begin with. Yet, you don’t want to say “can’t complain” either, when complaining is all you feel like doing some days.

Having arrived in Italy two days before nationwide lockdown, my experience here with my husband and two elementary-school children has been a wonderful shock. How could I tell my friends and family in Canada that my kids have no routine, that every cough and sneeze sends me into a secret frenzy, and the wailing of sirens keeps me up all night?

I couldn’t, so I didn’t. 

Instead, I’ve focused on the wonderful aspects of living in Italy (even though I haven’t left the house in sixty days, but I digress) and have kept the shocking parts all for me… Although we shouldn’t open up to everyone who asks us how we’re doing, we do owe it to those who love us, to be honest. But I resisted. 

One thing about our God though, is that He knows when to bring in an external force to come in and shake-up our lives to get us out of the psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual ruts we’re in. With the invitation to be part of See Hear Loves, Voices Around The World zoom show, Melinda Estabrooks was one of those forces.

I knew the focus of the conversation was going to be around our COVID-19 experiences, so I thought I’d reframe the question by focusing on what’s happening outside, leaving out what’s going on inside of me. 

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gave Melinda the discernment not to let me open up first.

While listening to these inspirational women, from all over the globe, talk openly about their frustrations, fears and uncertainties, including being a good teacher-parent, letting go, keeping sane and going from questioning to trusting God, I knew I had to drop the script. They were speaking from their heart, and so would I. 

A visceral lesson on vulnerability 

When the show was over, I felt relieved—like a whale had been lifted off my shoulders. But I say ‘visceral’ because, just like telling someone you love them for the first time—it feels scary before speaking, great when you’ve said it, but then you find yourself in the space between saying, and receiving—that’s the vulnerability sweet spot—and that’s when you really start feeling the visceral discomfort that comes from speaking from your core.

Truth be told, the next day, I woke up hoping that I’d get an email from Melinda saying the show somehow mysteriously went missing, and we’d have to record the whole thing over again. I imagined a whole new show. A show where I could READ FROM MY SCRIPT! 

Did I have to tell the world that I felt like a horrible mother?  Or that I dance alone in my room?  Or tell Canadians to sanitize their mouths? What!?

And as I was stressing over what my neighbours, colleagues, friends and family across the ocean would think of me, then came my A-HA moment! 

I finally realized, this is what it means to be vulnerable— It’s being honest about who you are and how you’re feeling at the risk of being judged – and still saying it anyway. 

And I remembered Saint Paul, and his words of vulnerability in his letter to the Corinthians: 

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:10

So if you’re tired of answering “How are you?” with a simple, “can’t complain” and want to release the words from fear’s grip with the strength that comes from being vulnerable, start by watching See Hear Love’s ‘Voices Around The World’ episode…. And please, whatever you do, don’t literally sanitize your mouth, ears and eyes!