Of all the things in the world that cause deep, visceral fear in people, one that’s greater than the fear of death is the fear of speaking before a crowd.
With every eye on you. Every face turned towards you. Center of attention.
My stomach turns just thinking about it.
I’m fascinated by folks who speak regularly. Pastors. Traveling speakers. Professors. They seem to have a nerveless and relaxed demeanor as they stand before audiences. Confident in their words. Their gestures. Their intonation. Not something forced or practiced to the point of it seeming robotic, but fluid and seamless. So many hardly refer to notes–if they have any at all. They walk casually around the platform, addressing, eyeball to eyeball, different people in the audience. Engaged and engaging.
Piece of cake.
There’s a reason folks are fearful of speaking in front of others. You’re totally exposed for who you are. Like the Emperor in the old children’s fairy tale whose new clothes weren’t there at all. He’d conned himself into believing what he himself couldn’t see. Because who, in their right mind, would let an Emperor walk through his kingdom naked?
I assure you I am and will be fully clothed. But those listening to you see you for who you really are. It’s hard to pull the wool over the eyes of an entire audience.
Someone is bound to see through any mask I try to wear.
Fear layered on fear.
So I’m preparing for the twitchy knees. The inability to swallow my spit appropriately without making loud sounds. The good chance that nerves will drive me to speak things I’m not prepared to say. I do have a lot of words. Fear tends to overwhelm the filter not to babble.
The bottom line is: Am I going to let fear keep me from doing what I know I need to do?
On many days, my answer could be a resounding, Of course I am! I’m afraid!
But God has given me what I need to do what He’s asked me to do.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Fear is my reality, but my greater reality is my audience of One. The One for whom and to whom I speak. I may not like the process. I may not enjoy it. But I’ll do it because He’s asked me to do it. A matter of discipline and obedience. And growth.
And He’s with me. I’m not alone up there.
I can’t let my fear define me.
Twitchy knees and all. This talk will happen.
First photo courtesy of io9.com.
Second photo courtesy of curepublicspeakingfear.com.
Third photo courtesy of rgbstock.com.