My mother was one of those classic, stereotyped parents who lived through her children. I knew at a young age that she had been kept out of National Honor Society and I was expected to right that wrong. The day I was installed as NHS President, she was much more excited than I was. She often took over dreams that I dared to breathe. And that often resulted in my withdrawal.
I was reminded of this recently when I was scanning old photographs into digital form. I was an avid photographer, never seen without a camera. I received my first SLR in Jr. High and I was in heaven. Around the time I was in college, I started actively trying to sell some photos. My mother was also a good photographer. I got my love of cameras from her. But for her, it was always a hobby. Until I got a chance to publish a photograph. Then she decided she would try to sell some of hers. And she succeeded. The talk around her sale eventually soured photography for me for a time. I definitely stopped trying to sell anything, and really rarely took my camera anywhere. I know it was never her intention for me to stop, but it happened. Her seeming obsession took the joy out of what I did. It happened with other things that I enjoyed. She saw my joy, decided to do something similar, became obsessive/competitive/derisive and I would withdraw.
The problem was, I was the only one that was missing out. I let her take my joy and stopped what I enjoy. Hear me clearly, I am the one who must take the responsibility of quitting because it was not her direct intent for me to stop what I was doing. It was inadvertent on her part.
This is not just true in the "voice" of the hobbies we pursue. It is also true of our writing. I've written here and here about the danger of trying to use someone else's voice in our writing--to try and be someone we are not. If we become so worried about using someone else's voice, ours is inadvertently silenced. When I become so worried about how something will be received that I never hit "publish," I have allowed others to inadvertently silence me. When someone's pursuit of something runs us over and we don't speak out, we have been inadvertently silenced. Not intentional. But it hurts just the same. And, for me, it hurts more as I realize that I have to take some of the responsibility of being silent. There is no one I can say is censoring or stopping me from speaking. I am allowing other people to govern how much I say.
If the success or apathy of someone else has caused you to stop sharing your gifts, I encourage you to resume using your gifts. Don't let someone else's actions take away your voice. Instead, look past their short-sightedness and take joy in what you are able to say and do. And, would you please join me in being committed to not inadvertently silencing others. Join with me to celebrate the successes and gifts of others. We must set aside our own jealousies and insecurities to encourage one another. After all, this body of Christ should be more about building up rather than tearing down.
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:11-12