Beloved Beginner - Speaking in My Own Voice
"I just finished re-reading Confessions of a Beginning Theologian (which I’ve quoted before here and have posted a brief reaction to on my Reading in 2008 page). It’s an autobiographical book which describes the author’s journey from a fundamentalist upbringing to becoming a professor of Systematic theology. So much of what Fraser writes about her struggle to find her own voice and to speak confidently (without fear of what other people think) resonates with me. And it resonates not just in the context of being a woman who is venturing into the male-dominated world of theology, but also in the broader context of day-to-day life and relationships. Take the following quote for example:
I began finding my public voice…. I began speaking from my heart. Reluctantly, I gave up my lifelong habit of watching myself out of the corner of my eye. I stopped trying to phrase things so that no one could possibly disagree with me. Word by word, I learned to speak just as I was — not as I thought I ought to be, and not as I thought others wanted me to be. I began paying attention to others’ responses and mine, instead of rushing ahead to the next thing I wanted to say. It was like learning to dance. Practice, practice, practice. Three steps backward, one step forward. (Elouise Renich Fraser, Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, 1998, IVP)
Oh how I wrestle with that same issue: wanting to phrase things in such a way that no one will be hurt or offended, so that no one can misunderstand or disagree. This is not because I don’t have definite, strong opinions about a variety of issues, it’s because I am sometimes uncomfortable with the impact that my words may have on others. Even here, on this blog, there are topics I stray away from because I know that there are those among my dedicated readers who probably disagree with my way of thinking about certain issues. I’m challenged to stop being afraid of my own voice and to learn to join the conversation in a new way. I’m pondering what that might look like at this stage in my life."