“You’re not cute,” she said as she pointed a well-manicured index finger at my chest. Wide eyed, my peers glanced at me, looked at our mentor, eyed the box of tissues and waited. I drew in a deep breath and smiled. “You’re not necessarily headed to the stages where you think you are headed,” she continued. “But, you have a stage. You’re not one of those ‘cutsie’ girl speaker types. You’re powerful. Unique. Dramatic. Inspiring. She demonstrated each word as she spoke them and made her point, “You have your audience.” As my heart filled to overflowing, the resultant tears made their way down my cheeks. Her tone was soft and sincere, and I let the next words wash over me, “You’ll have no problem getting speaking engagements. No problem at all. Just put yourself out there.” I let the breath out in a long deep sigh of relief as years of self-doubt came out with it.
I was free at last — free to be who God called me to be, just how He wired me and empowered me to go wherever it was He would send me. I was equipped and now years later, mentored with other speakers in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, released. I was never the happy sweet sanguine personality like my friends I so admired, but this choleric has her place. I remembered my peer group comments after my delivery: I didn’t get “fun, bubbly, lighthearted, whimsical, hysterical” written on my speaker review sheets. I received ‘riveting, authoritative, made me cry, healed my soul, convicting, encouraging, set me free’.
Over and over again, I gave the same two talks, refining them with every critique. Over and over, they listened, attentive to subtle improvements. When my mentor and the faculty finally sat with red noses and watery eyes, I knew I was finished. My mentor stood up and handed me back my journal where she had been writing notes. She taught me how to make those speeches more effective, but far more than that she taught me my particular audience was waiting, and I didn’t have to be anyone else but me to speak to them. Her words brought life. I had too many scars, both physical and spiritual, to be cute and so do my eager listeners. They are out there: self-starting leaders seeking God, the living God, thirsty for His living water and soul healing, as I had been.
I soaked in all I learned like an empty sponge during my week-long speaker training. I follow in the footsteps of other speakers, writers and communicators that God has elevated to public platforms as His mouthpiece. I don’t take that for granted for one moment. Nor do I take for granted, the loving teachers he’s surrounded me with.
A few weeks later, during a writer’s conference, my mentor met my husband, Jaime. She took our arms and interviewed us. Then she dropped the pearls. “You’re the introverted detailed one. He’s the extroverted one out in front. When you speak together in public, and you will,” she prophesied, as she turned the gaze of those sparkling blue eyes to me and said, “don’t correct him in public.” This woman, now in her 80’s had seen 60 years of ministry. She could read us like a book. And we gladly absorbed every word. She looked at me and right in front of my husband said, “he will make up dates, get facts wrong and mess up all the details.” Jaime laughed a booming belly laugh. He already had done exactly that when preaching, and my inner melancholy had already pointed out the inconsistencies. “Just don’t correct him in public,” she said to me again. “Do it afterwards if you must. I remember how Fred felt about that.”
Show mercy and grace
Have you ever told someone something what was good for them, yet your words went in one ear and out the other? My mentor cared enough to tell the truth in those instances and take the time to shape us forever. The Bible tells us to ‘speak the truth in love’ and so few people get that right. They use it as a license to bash, complain and uncover the flaws in others without attending to the logs hanging out of their own eyes. To be a Christian is to be different, show mercy and give grace. To give healthy and wise counsel to those willing to receive. My public speaking mentor exemplified this scripture like no other person I’ve ever met. She took questions first, gave a keen ear second and imparted real wisdom third without one reference to herself.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15 NLT).
Dr. Anne Arvizu is CEO of Christian Coaching International, Inc. and founder of The CCI Coach Institute. Visit www.GodCoach.com.