Talking too Much

Coming home from social anxiety.

Talking too Much
Photo by Michael Kucharski / Unsplash

The tickets for the row in front of us must have cost $350, but she wasn’t watching the basketball game. A photo lit up her phone.

She was editing a picture of her and her husband taken outside the arena. Smooth the edges, accentuate the curves, soften the lines.

You could tell she would be beautiful even without makeup, but in her eyes, not beautiful enough to be the version she presents to the rest of the world. Hence, the editing.

This isn’t a “her” thing, and it’s not just about physical appearance. It’s a human thing, and it shows up in any way we present ourselves to the world.

Our need to look better than we actually look stems from the same place as needing to sound smarter than we actually are or to be cooler than we actually know how to be.

When we feel uneasy about what people think about us, we feel the need to edit. It can be with a photo app or more often, with our words.

Which explains those moments of social angst when we can’t seem to stop talking. Saying more than we want to. Creating more overthinking with every word said.

Not liking how the thing we just said probably made us look, we have to explain and redeem ourselves.

Dallas Willard said it well:

Why do we insist on talking as much as we do? We run off at the mouth because we are inwardly uneasy about what others think of us. Eberhard Arnold observes: “People who love one another can be silent together.” But when we’re with those we feel less than secure with, we use words to “adjust” our appearance and elicit their approval. Otherwise, we fear our virtues might not receive adequate appreciation and our shortcomings might not be properly “understood.” In not speaking, we resign how we appear (dare we say, how we are?) to God. And that is hard. Why should we worry about others’ opinions of us when God is for us and Jesus Christ is on his right hand pleading our interests (Rom. 8:31–34)? But we do. (emphasis mine) -The Spirit of the Disciplines

How do we let go of this need to control how we are being perceived? In other words, to “resign how we appear” (or perhaps how we are) to God?

It starts with lots of quiet. What is the point of quiet? To come home.

When we are at home, emotionally more than physically, we do not worry about how we are. We just are. 

Whether funny or boring, presentable or not, talking too little or too much does not disturb our peace.

Letting go of self-consciousness then is less a journey of caring less about what others think and more a journey of coming home to a place (or really a person) where our self-conscious worries shrink to their proper size.

Where is home? It is the place where my heart and mind can relax in the knowledge that I am accepted as I am.

This place is not easily found amidst the distractions of everyday life. It’s not on Main Street. It’s hidden along the back roads.

We find our way there by braving the untamed thoughts swirling around and letting God calm our souls. 

In the quiet, our mind’s nagging questions can run their course until they’re too tired to run anymore.

Why did I say that?
How could I do that?
What will they think?

The quiet is where we learn to let our creator accept us as we are, and in turn, learn to accept ourselves as we are. No matter how plain, unrefined, or troubled.

Here, we come to realize that our inadequacies are not concerning to him. He gladly sits with us despite or maybe because of them.

We can find rest in that truth; we can sit with it and let it change us from the inside out.

Not needing to appear as anything more than we are, we can be exactly as lame or cool, dull or sharp, boring or funny as we are, and settle into the knowledge that we have a home in Him nonetheless.

Even if we are unsure of how the person we’re talking to values us, we are assured of our worth, and thus, can offer our full attention because we’re not filled with worries about how they perceive us.

This kind of peace takes time. The hustle and bustle of daily life leaves our minds looking like a jar of river water.

The sediment consists of the thoughts, worries, fears, and questions that plague our untamed minds.

But in time, gravity slowly grounds the sediment until the water is clear.

That is, until it gets stirred up again, at which point we can come back to the God who grounds us.

Jesus knew how to be at home wherever he was, without owning a house. He invited himself into strangers’ houses and enemies’ dinner parties and made for himself a home there because he was always at home in his Father’s world.

Today he shows up in our lives here and now and--if we let him--makes a home for us with him so that even in this competitive, scary, anxious world we find ourselves in, we can come home.

"We are always in the House of the Lord. We are in a place of the Lord wherever we are, whatever we do. We are already home. Even when we are on the way to our house we are home." - Henri J. M. Nouwen, Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety


Some helpful books on this topic:

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton
(the jar of river water metaphor was pulled from here)

Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety by Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard
(if I were to recommend one Willard book that most tangibly helped me, it'd be this one)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer