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Feel Like Expressing Yourself? Think Again

August 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Feel Like Expressing Yourself?  Think Again.

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The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur Week 5 of 12

Silence. To avoid speaking of myself, my troubles, my illnesses, and especially of my soul and the graces I have received from God. The abuse of confidences and indiscreet conversations easily lead to pride and egotistical absorption in oneself – an absorption, moreover, that does not help but, rather, hinders true recollectedness. – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 70-71 (Resolutions: 1906-1912, Three General Resolutions)

After reflecting prayerfully on the above passage, I have received a significant revelation through the intercession of the Holy Spirit that will ensure immediate and radical advances in my spiritual life.

What is this profound revelation, you ask?

Simple. I talk too much.

(Lest you scoff at the simplicity of my “aha” moment, let me share the words of Leonardo da Vinci, who once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”)

I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked by this realization. After all, our culture promotes personal expression. We’re encouraged to share our feelings. Our activities. Our very lives. To let nothing go unsaid. To express ourselves lavishly, like artists with a verbal paintbrush – whether the canvas be our spouse, family, friends, those who’ve wronged us, our neighborhood psychologist, or the entire cyber world!

We are a sharing people. Yes. We share our time, talent and treasure. But we also share the deepest parts of ourselves. Self-expression is a huge industry and we seemed to get sucked in on a daily basis. It started with talk shows where people exposed their greatest troubles for all the world to see. And just when we thought our expression could get no more explicit, we were drawn on to reality shows where those troubles are actually on display in real time for all the world to see. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and others – entire media outlets where the whole point is to express yourself!

We are told by the world at large that it is “all about me.”  That it is good to speak our minds. To air our grievances; to right wrongs committed against us. We are told that to talk about our feelings will help resolve them. In fact, we’re even told that silence is UN-healthy.

But like everything else we’re told in the culture today…this seemingly obvious truth requires a second look. Are we really better off with all this openness?

I don’t know how all this self-expression is working for the rest of the world. As for me, I must admit that I never feel better after expressing myself. I'm not into Facebook or Twitter; but whether telling my husband about something that frustrated me today or sharing a personal story with friends, I’ve realized that the more I share, the less I feel understood. Somewhere between all the I’s, My’s and Me’s, my ability to effectively communicate falls, singularly and sadly, by the wayside.

Perhaps I’m not alone in my inability to impart my innermost thoughts and feelings, despite all my efforts to do so. Somehow, an important piece of the puzzle is never transmitted, so I feel like the person to whom I’ve just bared my soul, has received only a small piece of the puzzle of my interior life, so to speak – but he is missing that golden key that unlocks his ability to KNOW me, to UNDERSTAND me, to SEE once and for all, the REAL me. The ME that no one else has seen, understood or known before.

I’m reminded of the artist who feels he lacks the resources and wherewithal to reproduce that “masterpiece” he sees in his mind’s eye. Likewise, the depth and complexity of our emotions and intentions are so convoluted that we cannot possibly do them justice on earth.I can only truly be known by the One who “knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).” Only my Heavenly Father can understand my innermost thoughts. As the Psalmist says,

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether. – Psalm 139: 1-4.

So why do I keep beating my head against a wall, trying desperately to express them to everyone else?

And what of my interior life? Doesn’t all this expression foster a sense of pride, egotism and selfishness? Are these the makings of virtue?

Elisabeth didn’t think so. She rejected any desire to express herself. Instead, Elisabeth vowed to be silent. To avoid speaking about herself in any context.

Silence. What a beautiful word. It literally rolls off the tongue, heralding the quiet to come. When I think of Silence, contemplatives come to mind. I imagine them spending hours and even days absolutely still, meditating on the things of God. And in those quiet moments, there is no doubt that they are expressing themselves…bearing their souls to their Counselor, Revealer, Comforter, Beloved. Flooded with peace from the Prince of Peace.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 5: August 23, 1907 – End of March 17, 1911 (p. 80-106)

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you speak too freely about yourself? If so, what do you think about the notion of Silence?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from this past week!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Thank you for this! Guilty as charged! One of the first things my spiritual director taught me about prayer was keeping silent. And my Mom reminds me to listen when we’re with others. I tend talk too much on both occasions. Thank you for the insight. It does all boil down to wanting to be truly understood, accepted and loved. Thank you for the reminder that only God can gives this to us!
    By the way that Psalm is today’s Responsorial Psalm. 🙂

  • Yule

    wow… opens my eyes… I am a frequent sharer in Facebook too and so true that the answer to, “are we really better off with all this openness?”
    is a No.

  • Rosemaid

    I don’t “do” Facebook, twitter or other social media. I found them to be like soap operas…time wasters. I find I need silence more and more since there seems to be so little in the world today. I would like to suggest however that if we don’t share ourselves with one another how can we pray & support one another? We are a social beings who need community. We need to listen as well as share with one another.

    The Native American listens intently and does not immediately jump in
    with their thoughts until they have “digested” what the other had to
    say. Perhaps we ought to learn a lesson from them. I would be very
    interested to know what you others may think of this notion.

  • RobinJeanne

    Yes, I too talk too much. When I started my journey back to the Lord i used to
    pray that He mute me. My tongue always got me into trouble. When you wrote “,
    I’ve realized that the more I share, the less I feel understood. Somewhere
    between all the I’s, My’s and Me’s, my ability to effectively communicate falls,
    singularly and sadly, by the wayside.” I thought … Oh my gosh, I’m not alone,
    she understands…. people hear me wrong. When i write, it seems to be
    different. I hear many good things and have even though of only writing, no
    talking.

    My spiritual director has been giving me books such as”no Moment too Small”
    and “Sacred Rhythms” and “A Deep and Subtle Joy” all 3 on the Benedictine way of life for the lay person, all deal with the silence of monastery life and making it ours.

    Maybe he’s trying to tell me something without saying it. I was thinking it
    was because he knew I have a love for St. Benedict…. Hmmm, maybe the Lord put that love on my heart for this reason….. I don’t know, I just know I need to
    stop talking so much, even the always sharing with my closet friends…. I love
    them dearly but still find myself saying… they’re not getting me…. I’ve never
    felt like I belonged on this earth, that I wasn’t made for here, and
    alien…..
    Thank you for sharing, I needed to hear this.

  • Scape Goat

    Thanks so much, Vicki. This struck me, as I’m addicted to expressing myself (like this!) on social media. I resolve to cut it out and spend more time with Jesus in silence. Amen.

    Silence as a concept is wonderful! But not easy to do.

  • Jeanette

    I, too, feel misunderstood when I share my inmost feelings and the more I try to explain, the worse it seems to get. And recently I expect this to happen, no matter how eloquently I think I have expressed myself. But my sense is that it’s supposed to be this way, so that in our frustration we will learn to go to Jesus and share everything with Him FIRST. I look at it this way, it’s a type of training for us. This is what He wants after all…that we put Him first in everything and then He will give us His peace. Usually, after sharing with Jesus, I find that there is little need to share many of my inmost thoughts with others unless it is for charitable reasons.

    • Sharing with Jesus first. Yes, looking back I realize that this is what He wants me to do too! When I do He does shed light on my situation, encourages me to trust, assures me of His love. Sometimes even over seemingly trivial matters which may bother me a lot, He is so kind, patient and gentle. Thank you for reminding me of this!

      • clare

        Then Mary, none of us should really be commenting on RCSD, should we? Therefore, should there be NO Comment Section on this Catholic Site? Looking what others have posted and your post- guess this is the last post we will be hearing from you, Dear One and others?
        Blessing,
        ‘clare’

        • Thank you! You make a good point! There should be balance.

          Personally, when I’m with friends I tend to monopolize the conversation. And I talk too much other times besides.

          I did not mean that I would never comment here. I don’t mean we should stop sharing our spiritual lives here or without spiritual friends. Learning from everyone here has been such a great blessing!

          I guess what we need is balance and prudence. Being silent helps us be more attentive to the Holy Spirit, knowing when to speak and when not to. So that when we do speak, it will bring others closer to God. Ordinarily, I know I lack discretion. I try to pray to the Holy Spirit before I comment here and other websites. Maybe I should do that other times as well.

          God Bless!

          • clare

            My point, and you replied beautifully,
            The heart of this, is to be attentive to the Holy Spirit speaking to you, constantly, while speaking to others,
            There will be a time when the Holy Spirit will say “Speak Here-I’ll Give You The Words” and other times- you’ll hear that Quiet Voice, “Remain Silent in My Holy Spirit”. It’s called being ‘attentive to how the Holy Spirit is Speaking through you’, -it’s not hard to learn- one must desire this from God,Will it so, Pray and then be attentive to your soul. Usually starts with One Word , from the Holy Spirit, spoken to you deep, deep inside of you – which is always Truth- that which belongs to God Alone. Then you say to another, what I am Receiving From the Holy Spirit while you were speaking is, thus and so- and they will know with out a doubt this is not from you, Dear One, but from, as it is said,”Jesus Calling”.
            Blessings,
            ‘clare’

            ‘clare’

        • LizEst

          Editor’s Note: Clare is here responding to Mary’s previous comment at the bottom of the page.

  • Mary G

    I quit FB awile back, because i realized (by grace) how it was such a self indulgent waste of time. Better spent “sharing”with Jesus. I was finding little time to pray and thought what might I,cut out to make room for Him?….and social media is a huge time sucker for me…(WAS). I realized that everyone on these outlets are bragging and showing what “they got”, which is nothing in reality, and no one really cares about what the others are showing off because is IS nothing. So, basically they are showing off “NOTHING” to themselves. It really is a distraction and not healthy for anyone who is persuing a relationship,with God. That being said, I am also in the process of learning to be silent in more aspects of my life, so,this post inspired me. I also agree with Jeanette, that it is one lesson in the school of holiness. We study, we,practice we work ,towards perfection! Thanks so much.

    • THERESAEVENBLY

      FB, like many other things (tv, telephone) is a tool that must be used judiciously. I cannot make judgments about people’s comments because some comments may be inane. I do weekly FB fasts. I found many prayer groups on FB and I love learning and reading from them (because it’s easier on my Android than a website page). AND I’m really learning from others through this medium. But you are right, the main thing is to make sure that our relationship with God is pursued and that whatever detracts from this relationship needs to be expunged! Jesus is always the better part.

  • DianeVa

    Amen,amen,amen to all you comments and most especially to you Vicki, you hit the nail on the head. I too feel like the more I try to convey my thoughts and feelings with non-believers or lukewarm believers I sink deeper into the mud with them. However, as you said through your writing Vicki, we are blessed to receive God’s thoughts by listening to others who are disciples and who He has placed in our lives for a purpose. I use FB more to evangelize by “liking” Catholic sites like this, rather than talking about myself. When we share our testimony, our life in Christ, for Christ and through the grace of Christ, for His glory than we can talk. The key is to talk to Him first and let Him direct our voice in love. I love this book!

    • Vicki

      Yes, Diane, you are right. It is about discernment – what is the right use of these forms of media? I have seen so many young people on Instagram, sharing products they like, shoes they purchased, etc., and have been so saddened because I really believe that kids running rampant on these forms of media are becoming more and more absorbed in themselves. BUT…the other day, I saw a “meme” shared among teens that juxtaposed the fines and jail time incurred through stealing bald eagle eggs with our being forced to pay for the killing of unborn babies. As I saw this pictured “liked” by teen after teen, I thought – YEAH – if the dissemination of TRUTH were the purpose of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. among teens and others – WOW – that could change the world!

  • Laurie

    In the book “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: The path to the God-given reality of my fellow-man with whom I have to live leads through Christ, or it is a blind alley. We are separated from one another by an unbridgeable gulf of otherness and strangeness which resists all our attempts to overcome it by means of natural association or emotional or spiritual union. There is no way from one person to another. However, loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even soul and soul. Christ stands between us and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through Him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.

    • Vicki

      Laurie, This is absolutely beautiful – and so true. I’m sure it causes great sadness, though – unless one turns, as Elisabeth did, to God – as opposed to relying on human beings for understanding or approbation. Thank you for sharing this insight.

  • Rae

    Thank you for this thoughtful article. I seem to be experiencing almost the opposite revelation lately though, and that is “Open Up”.

    I am a very introverted, hidden person, and have an extremely hard time talking even about the ordinary details of my life, let alone what I am going through spiritually and emotionally. I think it has to do with emotional neglect while growing up – I retreated into myself.

    I am starting to realize that I need to be more open and transparent with my husband and others, both for their sake and for mine. My husband cannot understand me or my needs if I remain comfortably silent; and I know he wants to be able to help me. Sometimes feeling misunderstood leads me to resentment – but its unnecessary, I need to communicate more clearly and be more willing to talk.

    So there’s a balance to everything!

    • Vicki

      Amen to that! Thanks so much for sharing the other side of the spectrum!

  • LizEst

    I believe listening to the Lord is key…and we need silence and quiet to hear His small, still and gentle voice. Yet, some ARE called to be evangelizers, preachers, teachers, etc. I think one has to judge the circumstances, the signs of the times, that one is in. If one’s home environment is like that of Elisabeth, then silence is probably called for more than speaking volumes. If one is called to evangelize, then it is hardly right to be quiet when one should be speaking. If one is called to speak out against injustice, one can hardly be silent in a culture saturated with such. So, all things in moderation and in keeping with God’s holy will for us. If we are called to speak, then what we must proclaim is Christ, not ourselves. And, in any case, we must always set aside time for the Lord…if we wish Him to set aside time for us. Thanks for this post Vicki…and God bless you!

    • clare

      Very well said LizEst, this got us thinking didn’t it?
      Blessings,
      ‘clare’

      • LizEst

        Yes, the Lord truly wishes for us to use our minds to understand these things, as opposed to becoming blind guides. We teach each other through these fora…and the book club is a great one for this.

        “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Opening words of “Fides et Ratio – On the Relationship between Faith and Reason” Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II, 1998).

  • Now, my elementary mind is a bit lost here. If we observe this Silence about Oneself Rule strictly, how shall the various Catholic Solidarity Groups operate? Say,the Alcoholic Anonymous, the Marriage Encounters, the C.W.As and C.M.As, the Young Adults Catholic Association,not to mention the vivacious PMCs? And how shall we, the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, conduct our Weekly Cenacle Meetings, our Rural Parish Outreach Missions and Training of Trainers Sessions? If we do not share what God has blessed us with, how shall we encourage others to seek Him and know Him more earnestly? How shall we succeed in imparting to our Catholic Faithful to whom we take the Message of Divine Mercy Devotion and how do we utilize and impart the Teachings from the Study Manuals and the Diary, without giving our personal input as Proclaimers of what have benefited from this Devotion ??

    Finally, how about what we share and the experiences we exchange in this RCSD Website??????

    • LizEst

      Yes, you are right about all those things. Silence is not a strict rule for everyone but for some…and sometimes for all in certain circumstances, especially when sitting quietly with the Lord in prayer so that we can hear Him speaking to us in the depths of our hearts.

      One question – what are PMCs?

      • PMCs???? The Apostolate the Holy Father Emeritus established in the Universal Church – Pontifical Missionary for Children. Membership to this Apostolate is for kids from Age 0 to 13 yrs. We have gone to back to my childhood days when moulding of kids in the Catholic Faith was an essential part of Formation under the dedicated Missionary Nuns and Lay Catholic Leaders who took us through the Catechism, first for preparation for reception of the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Then we were taken through all the other five Sacraments, the history of the major Saints and Church Teachings on Faith and Morals. And when we were big enough, we were taken through the Holy Bible which the Missionaries had translated in our Native Language. This was intensified when we joined formal Schools in the pre-Primary, Primary and Intermediate Schools. By the time we were entering and completing the Secondary School, we were well grounded in our Catholic Faith.

        Now the PMCs go through the same stages, are very, very active participants in the Eucharistic Celebrations as Liturgical Dancers with their stunning Uniforms, Ushers; they have their own magnificent Choirs for Junior and Intermediate PMCs (never mind some of the Juniors sing off-tune!!!!). They hold regular Meetings – in our Parish, their Chairman is a 5-year old little Man! – they organize Charitable Walks to raise funds for the needy in the Archdiocese, go on pilgrimages to the local Shrines for day-long Prayers, etc.

  • LizEst

    Thanks for this post, Vicki. May I suggest the story of St. Bakhita as a book club selection? She is a very powerful inspirational saint and a truly humble person worthy of emulation.

    • Vicki

      Liz, I always welcome suggestions – is there a specific title you have in mind?

  • Wow. Totally what I needed to read just now. Nice. Thank you!

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