Confidence to speak in group settings has always been a life long struggle for me. It seems like whenever I am in a discussion group or something like that, I find it hard to contribute any of my thoughts. I’ve seen this throughout the years in numerous cases such as school, catechism, societies, convention discussion groups, and even now in committee meetings. Every time I leave without contributing, I feel bad because I know that I had thoughts to add, but was too scared to speak up, even if I felt that those ideas would benefit another person.
I think part of what feeds my fear of speaking up is where I had the privilege of growing up: West Michigan. I am very thankful for the many Christian schools and teachers we have here, but in class I would often rely on all the other students to “take my place” when answering questions. When going to convention and having discussion groups, I always hoped for those kids in my group who I knew would “take my place,” or conventioneers from other states and smaller churches. Having friends that grew up in those churches, I knew that they were “forced” to answer questions because they had fewer students in the class. Instead of having 20 other kids in their class, there were only three or four. To me it seemed like they were never afraid of what others thought while speaking up, and I appreciated and admired them so much.
During group settings, I have thoughts to contribute, but wonder about what others might think about me if I say this. Will I be judged? Will they think I am stupid for saying this or asking that particular question? Will it be perceived as though I don’t feel strong in my faith? Is this too obvious? But I’ve noticed that if I do get the nerve up to say something or ask a question and share my thoughts, I feel better and relieved.
After thinking about this issue for a long time (years), I finally came to a conclusion. I realized that I should have nothing to worry about. As Christians, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be building each other up in love and helping each other where we fall short. I shouldn’t be worried about my fellow Christians tearing me down, especially if we want to follow our Lord’s example and serve one another.