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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: https://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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