Free Minds

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My father attended Harvard Divinity School where he did well enough that upon graduation he was launched into a brief career as a Unitarian minister. My father loves to tell stories, but he told me only one about this time in his life: He knew it was time to find a new job when every night before he was to give a sermon he would literally bite his tongue in his sleep.

That story stayed with me in a way that many of his others did not. This says nothing about the quality of his other stories but more about my own relationship to stories themselves as well as what it means to give a sermon. When he told me about biting his tongue I had no idea I would ever be writing these little essays or teaching people about Fearless Writing. In those days I was happy just to entertain people.

Except I actually wasn’t. That is, I liked entertaining people, but I secretly wanted to share something else with them that I feared wasn’t entertaining at all and would only bore and disappoint people. I’ll sneak it in, I thought to myself, like medicine mixed into a cat’s dinner. It was no good. What you love and believe can’t be a secret you spend your efforts cleverly writing around.

I thought of Dad and his tongue-biting a few years ago when I was teaching a Fearless Writing workshop. It was going particularly well that afternoon, which means I was pounding the desk and pointing and pacing and hoping the students were getting something out of it because I certainly was. Afterward one of those students commented, “You sure you weren’t once an evangelical minister? This was like a revival meeting.”

I laughed and thanked her for the compliment. There is nothing like the freedom of discovering you are safe to say what you most want to say. How friendly the world becomes in that holy instant. Telling people what you think they want to hear, meanwhile, is the lie that hurts everyone, particularly the speaker, whose tongue he fears might betray him, whose mind is a secret best kept locked in a polite prison. 

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

William KenowerComment