I Have a Voice
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
There’s a scene in the Academy Award® winning movie The King’s Speech, in which King George VI of England has a confrontation with Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, in London’s Westminster Abbey. The men are in the Abbey to practice the vows the King is to speak at his upcoming coronation. George VI has great anxiety that he will be unable to recite his vows with clarity and distinction. Since childhood he struggled with an often debilitating stutter, an impediment that causes him deep embarrassment and a severe lack of confidence in his abilities.
In a very powerful exchange the King, frustrated, implores Logue:
Listen to me.
Why should I listen to you?
The King counters, forcefully, yelling, in fact:
Because I have right. I HAVE A VOICE!
Logue, silent for a moment, confirms:
Yes … you do.
The King, whose lifelong doubts about his ability to use his voice to live out the historic calling that has been burdened upon him, for the first time begins to embrace that calling and to rise to the challenge it presents.
So why do we write? We write because we believe that, like the King, all people have a voice, including us. And we believe that all people need to be encouraged to share that voice, to allow it to be heard, to use it for the common good.
When we were in school, both of us dreaded seeing course requirements that indicated class participation would make up more than even 10% of our class grade. We knew that requirement would ultimately, drastically, affect our grade and maybe our future. We can both remember specific classes in which, when our report cards were handed out, we were given the devastating grade of a “D”, because we didn’t speak up enough in class. It’s not that we didn’t have anything to say or contribute. But we both doubted our abilities to say it, to articulate it well. We often felt as if our voices would be drowned out by the voices of those who were louder or more forceful, those seemingly more articulate and confident.
But we can also remember specific classes with teachers and professors who encouraged us to speak and to write freely, to use the voice that we had been given, teachers who instilled in us a sense of worth and significance. They were teachers who planted in us the seeds of increasing confidence that would enable us to develop our voices, to share them in ways that would come to help and inspire others to share theirs too.
I, Michael, will always remember the seminary Greek professor who, at Christmas the year I had her class, shared what one special gift she would give me if she could. She wrote to me:
Θα ήθελα να σας δώσω μια φωνή, ένα σίγουρο και καθαρό. Για να έχουν κάτι σημαντικό να πει.
I would give you a voice, one confident and clear. For you have something important to say.
She championed me. She saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself. And by writing her wish, articulating her hope, she gave me a true gift that inspired me to know that I did have a voice, and the ability to articulate it in speech and through the written word.
And I, Tom, had a similar experience in grad school. I was taking a creative writing class called Storytelling. Very vividly, I remember writing and sharing one story, doubting whether or not the story was any good. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I asked to use the restroom. The professor then said that the whole class would take a fifteen-minute break. I quickly left the building hoping I wouldn’t get noticed. The professor followed me outside, plopped down next to me on the park bench, put his arm around me, and said a few words in his strong Irish accent that I will never forget—words which have inspired me to this day:
You’re better than you think you are.
Just like Michael’s professor, he too, saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He listened and he heard my voice. He heard my heart. He heard my passion. He heard my ability—even if I couldn’t hear it myself—and he told me so.
It is teachers such as these who have taught us that our voices have the right to be heard.
We have established a non-profit counseling service together and part of our work is to write a blog about relationships, becoming our best selves, and living a life of abundant spiritual and emotional health. We write each post together; always trying to access deep places within our own hearts and minds to find a topic to share. We first open ourselves to each other, talking through and sharing that day the broken parts of ourselves, the frustrating moments, the points of encouragement we’ve had, the gifts of grace we have felt. We hope that our common thoughts will resonate with others.
As persons who in our younger years lacked the confidence to share our voices, it was the encouragement and graciousness of others who helped us to find ours – and in writing we feel we have. It was those gifts of encouragement given to us that today compel us to give the same encouragement to others. Everybody has a voice. Everybody has value. Everybody has something to offer. We believe this with our entire beings. But often times it takes someone else or a certain set of circumstances for that voice to come out, for it to be heard. We write to encourage that voice to come out, for it to be heard in others.
C. S. Lewis has written:
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
In our culture, sharing or showing our vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness, especially for males. It should not be. And that’s also why we write, to share from our own brokenness so that others may gain strength in theirs, so that they may say: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. When that can happen we know that the chains that bind can be broken, that the darkness that descends can be pierced, and the pain of heartbreak can be soothed.
We have definitely doubted our abilities at times. But in working together we can be an encouragement to one another and through the “What, you too?” moments that invariably happen, we can help to drive the doubts that all of us have away.
At one pivotal point in The King’s Speech, Lionel Logue explains:
My job is to give them faith in their own voice, And let them know that a friend was listening.
We write together for that very reason. And when we hear from others that our voices, through our writing, makes a difference, we are reminded to use the voices that we have been given. It is our mission to remind others of the same thing too.