Have you seen the movie The King’s Speech? It leads the Academy Awards with 12 nominations, including best picture and acting honors for Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. The King’s Speech engages us in the true story of King George VI, who was afflicted with a debilitating speech impediment since he was a young boy. When his father King George V died, his brother King Edward VIII ascended to the throne. After falling in love with twice divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, Edward VIII chose to abdicate the throne after less than a year in order to marry Simpson. His younger brother, Albert (known as Bertie) was crowned King George VI in December 1936.
On the brink of war, Englandneeded a strong and confident king who could reassure the nation of his leadership. It was absolutely terrifying, however, for George VI to make a speech because no one had ever been able to cure his stutter. The King’s wife, whom we knew as the Queen Mother, arranged for George VI to receive speech therapy from an eccentric commoner named Lionel Logue. Logue’s unorthodox methods finally enabled George VI to find his voice. However, that voice was far more than his physical ability to speak. During World War II the King and Queen were beloved by English citizens for their determination and resolve to resistGermany and offer support and encouragement to the troops.
Everyone in this world has a voice. Everyone. By virtue of their birth, all people on this earth have the potential to discover and use their gifts to make a difference in their small corner of the world. Unfortunately, most people have no idea how capable they are, physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. They haven’t a clue how smart, insightful, caring, or wise they are because those gifts have never been identified and nurtured.
22 years ago Stephen Covey published the international phenomenon, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Tens of millions of people in business, government, schools, families, and churches dramatically improved their lives by applying the 7 habits, which Covey defined as: Be proactive; Begin with the end in mind; Put first things first; Think win-win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize principles of creative communication; and Sharpen the Saw.
In 2004 Covey realized that we need a different mindset and a new habit to live in today’s reality, where so many people feel frustrated, discouraged, unappreciated, and undervalued, with little or no sense of voice or contribution. So he published a second book called The Eighth Habit; From Effectiveness to Greatness. He defines the 8th habit as discovering and expressing your voice.
In order to be whole people, you and I need to find our voice. Have you ever literally lost your voice? You have a cold, and you just can’t speak. All you can do is whisper. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Have you ever figuratively lost your voice? Do you ever feel as if your voice has been silenced? I think of local pastors in TheUnited Methodist Church, many of whom will finally have a voice by being able to elect delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The poor often have no voice because it’s money that seems to speak the loudest in our world. Any group with a minority status can be left without a voice when those in power have the authority to take that voice away on a whim.
How do we find our voice? Finding our voice means looking inside our heart to discover our God-given potential. It means listening to the voice of Jesus, saying, “I love you. I have intentions for your life. I have called you to be the voice of grace and hope in this world.” Each of us has a unique voice, which can speak most clearly when we open ourselves to the movement of the Spirit in our life.
Finding our voice also means letting go of the voices of our past telling us that we will never amount to anything, that we are a failure, that we are no good, that we are only a boy or a girl. The negative voices of the past no longer rule. All the voices that put us down and squelched our spirit no longer have control over us. We find our true voice by leaving the past behind and creating a future where every one of our gifts can be used to bring healing and hope to our world.
In King George VI’s speech therapy with Lionel Logue, the King discovered that his stammering was directly related to harsh treatment by his nanny, a brother who mocked him, and a father who was ashamed of his son’s speech impediment. Young Bertie never felt as if he could measure up. Logue said to the King at one point, “You don’t need to be afraid of the things you did when you were age 5.”
Just as important, finding our voice means listening to voices on the outside confirming our call. If it weren’t for his wife’s encouragement and unconditional love, King George VI might never have overcome his stuttering, let alone regain his self-worth. I remember a young man in a previous church who was asked to chair an important committee shortly before I became the pastor. When we met, he said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I never imagined myself as a leader. But the previous pastor believed in me, and the church has supported me. I wonder – will you believe in me, too?” I did, and he found his voice in a mighty way.
Finding our voice means uncovering the potential that was given to us by God before we were even born, a potential confirmed by the Holy Spirit and the voices of others, a potential that envisions a hopeful future. But that’s not all. Once we find our voice, we’re just getting started. The truth is that we find our voice so that we can empower others to find their voice. That’s precisely the second part of Stephen Covey’s 8th habit. The 8th habit is finding our voice and inspiring others to find theirs. Covey writes, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”
In other words, finding our voice is not about us. It’s not about reinforcing our middle class American ambition-oriented understanding of self. Nor it is about pressuring others or steering others in the direction we want them to go. It’s about identifying and using our voice to empower and inspire. It’s about multiplying our faith in others. During their therapy sessions, Lionel Logue said to King George VI, “My job is to give you faith in your own voice.” The most important ministry of the church may just be empowering all of God’s children to find their voice and discover how God is calling them to change the world.
There is one more thing about finding our voice. It may lead us to places we’d rather not go. How did Jesus find his voice? Jesus’ parents gave him the freedom to discover his voice. He learned. He listened. He observed. He sat at the feet of his teachers. He followed his heart and intuition as to when it was time to begin his ministry. God’s voice at his baptism, “You are my beloved son,” gave Jesus the courage to face the wilderness of temptation, find the voice that would carry him through 3 years of ministry, endure the suffering of the cross, and equip his disciples to go into all the world after his death.
- What fear prevents you from following your voice, wherever it leads?
- Will you refuse to let others drown out your voice?
- Are you ready to risk the consequences of standing up for the voiceless when no one else will?
- Can you use your voice to inspire our children and youth discover their voice?
- What will you do to help our legislators, teachers, and business leaders use their voice to make a positive difference in our world?
- Do you believe that when all of our voices sound together, we can do all things?
- Do you hear the voice of your Lord and Savior calling you to use your voice to build thekingdomofGod?
I highly recommend that you see The King’s Speech. Why? Because finding your own voice and discerning how God wants you to change the world are all part of the same package. If you have any doubts, just ask Queen Elizabeth II, who succeeded her father, King George VI, upon his death in 1952. She found the movie “moving and enjoyable.”