In those moments, my mind drifts back to Conway High School in the late 90s. I was in a Speech and Debate class, and I believe we were giving How To speeches. One of my classmates asked us to bring empty plastic bottles for a bit of audience participation as she gave her speech, so I did. When she asked us to pull out our bottles, no one else had one. Not wanting to look like the overly eager dork who remembered her plastic bottle, I pretended not to have one.
I remember my classmate's disappointment as that portion of her speech wasn't as effective as she had hoped it would be. I remember feeling awful. Rotten. Like a bad friend.
Because I feared my classmates poking fun at me, I missed out on an opportunity to support and encourage my friend (to partner with her, for my Ezer-reading friends).
That moment, seemingly insignificant, lives with me, reminding me that speaking up to encourage someone is far more important than what other people think of me.
As an adult, I'm in situations regularly when I have to choose if I'm going to speak up or stay silent. I stay silent far more than I care to admit. Fear is usually the reason.
Fear of saying something that makes me sound unintelligent, inadequately educated on a subject.
Fear of saying something that will offend someone.
Fear of saying something that will lead to (probably mild) persecution because of my beliefs.
Fear of not looking cool (That makes me laugh, because I have never been cool! Do the cool people still say "cool"?!).
Fear of being shunned by the person I want to be my friend.
Fear of standing alone when no one else will speak up with me.
Fear of regretting I opened my mouth in the first place.
I'm not writing this post because of a particular issue. Something just triggered the old memory from that Speech and Debate class, and I was whisked back to my seat, book bag zipped tight at my feet, concealing the empty plastic bottle within.
I would like to challenge all of us to speak up this week. You never know whom you might encourage or what change you might effect.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3, 4 NIV).