I am about to tell you something about myself that I have been hiding for years.
It has been such a guarded secret that even now I struggle with sharing it with you. There have been periods of my life when it has more evident than other times. It is something that I have had to deal with my whole life. I don’t talk about it much because it is something that I have had to work very hard at not doing. I have learned to mask it even from my own family. Many times I have to avoid certain situations to keep myself from doing it. Make no mistake, I am not making it up (do your own research) it is a very real and difficult situation. Unless you experience it or have the problem yourself, you cannot fully understand the gravity and challenge it is to have what I have. I only reveal it now because it is something that taught me a valuable lesson this week.
I am a stutterer.
Doesn’t sound too bad or serious when you just write the words down. However, the experience of having the problem is much worse in reality than I ever could have imagined.
Again…I am a stutterer.
Not in sense that I repeat certain syllables called “repetition” like “to-to -to – today” or carry the consonant called “prolongation” like “bbbbbbb butter”. I suffer from a problem called “involuntary hesitation” which basically means that I have to force myself to speak words or force myself to stop speaking when I am in certain situations.
Let me try to explain to you what it is like to have this problem.
I am sure that everyone, at one time or another, has lost their train of thought in the middle of a conversation. You are talking and suddenly your words trail off and you have no idea what you want to say next and cannot even remember what you were talking about in or the point you wanted to make. My problem is exactly like this but it happens all the time. It never really stops. You just learn to control it at times. You have to plan certain responses for certain questions. It is easier if you control the direction of the conversation.
Some of the symptoms of people who have my problem are as follows:
- They are slow or appear hesitant to respond to questions.
- When they do respond, they tend to talk very fast. The reason is because they want to say everything that is on the tip of their tongue before they “have” to hesitate.
- They often appear to be overly excited in their response to a question. Shortness of breath and louder than normal voice level is common.
- They will suddenly stop in mid-sentence and appear to lose their train of thought. This is not the case in most circumstances…they just can’t formulate the words to say it out loud. In their mind, they have already said it.
- They tend to repeat certain words or phrases as “filler” in sentences. This is done to mask the fear of “prolongation and repetition” of their speech. For example, in less severe conditions a person may use the term “like”, “you know” and “uh”. I personally use the word “thing” as one of my filler words. Don’t know why and yes, it is very strange. Most people either don’t catch it when I say it, or they act as if it is natural because no one has brought it to my attention. It took a recording of me talking on tape for me to really hear it for myself. Strange…indeed.
- They will tend to blurt out responses and interrupt conversations.
I always have to be on guard to make sure I control it when it happens.
However, there is a time when I have absolutely no problem responding or showing any signs of hesitation in my speech. I have no symptoms when I am angry. I have clarity of speech, clarity of thought and I do not stumble over one single word. Like Mel Tillis, who doesn’t stutter when he sings…I do not stutter when I am angry.
Let me explain…
A few days ago I received an email from a co-worker. He was writing a note to me complaining about one of my employees. He was upset and wanted me to know that he did not feel that this employee was performing all of the tasks that pertained to their job.
I opened the email and slowly started to read what he wrote. As I continued to read, I started to feel irritated about his perspective. The more I read, the more upset I was getting. I was feeling that he did not know what he was talking about and that this letter was just a way to take a cheap shot at one of my hardest working employees.
I immediately started to put together a response. I was gathering all the information I needed to address his complaints and was just about finished when he walked into my office and started to ask me if I had received his email. I told him that I had received it that I was putting a response that I would send to him. He continued to push the issue with me and I was trying to avoid a conflict but then he said the magic words that got me to react.
And man…did I ever react.
I could probably tell you all of the reasons I responded to him the way I did. I am sure in many ways I could really use them to justify why I reacted the way I had….but in reality they are not an excuse to justify my behavior. When I needed to “hesitate” the most in my response…I blew it by having a very sharp tongue.
My goal has always been to try present myself in a professional manner at work. I also strive to make sure that people know that I am a believer in Jesus Christ and that I want to respond in such a way that would promote and show what Jesus Christ has done in my life. In mere seconds, I had damaged my testimony and possibly stopped any opportunity of having a positive influence over those who witnessed my outburst for Christ.
We may not realize how much our ‘talk’ tells others about our ‘walk’ with Christ!
Each of us needs to constantly remember that our words speak much louder to others about who we are. The way we react to the crabby clerk in the store, the ‘inept’ server in the restaurant or a co-worker that you’re upset with is a testimony of what Jesus means to us.
The same lips that sing praises to God on Sunday should never ridicule or verbally attack others during the week! Guard what you say and how you say it. You never know who may be watching and listening to you.
“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)
Such wise words! All of us have had to “bite our tongues” at one time or another. Sometimes it’s just not worth letting what pops into our minds slip out of our mouths. We really hurt others, or even ourselves, by saying the wrong things.
The Bible clearly tells us,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
So basically, we should always strive to speak words that are uplifting and beneficial to others; not words that tear down, degrade, or corrupt.
However, this is not such an easy thing to do. Our ability to control what we say is pretty much summed up in chapter 3 of the New Testament book of James.
“But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
So, what’s a person to do? How can we control our tongues and keep ourselves from saying something we’ll regret later? That is something that is weighing heavy on my mind. I am trying to figure that one out.
Perhaps the next time I am about to say something in anger that I know could be considered rude, or just plain taken the wrong way, I need to stop myself, ask God for the right words and then say it in a way that would be kinder and more acceptable. If this is not possible, then I should follow the advice my mother always told me…
And that advice is,
“Some things are better off left unsaid”