Stuck in the Back of My Throat

Stuck in the Back of My Throat (1,175)

June 12th, 2011

He swore he’d told her. He was positive that time and time again he had spoken the words. She just didn’t remember them—or worse yet, she had maliciously decided to malign his name and make him seem uncaring.

The two of them sat in front of me, sharing about problems in their relationship. She made the observation that he never said thank you for anything. He, on the other hand, vehemently denied the assertion. It was one of those typical marital back-and-forths which see-saw into a meaningless up-and-down conversation—the kind that never evens out, never offering anything resembling common ground.

It probably was my responsibility, as the set of ears, in the room to get to the bottom of the matter. But I realized that was impossible—because she would continue to insist that he never spoke any words of gratitude and he would become increasingly adamant that he was not only grateful, but also quite verbose about it.

The truth? They were both right. She was correct in the sense that no actual words resembling “thank you” or “I appreciate you” ever fell from his lips. He was accurate in that he was truly thankful, but somewhere along the line, the words just got stuck in the back of his throat.

It happens to all of us. And especially as we have insisted on becoming more isolated from our emotions, our mouths have become even less willing to speak the sentiments of our hearts, although we are quite positive we have communicated it in some way to those around us. “Thank you” and “you’re welcome” have been displaced by a nod and a smile. “I love you” has been bumped out of the way in favor of abstract actions which are supposed to communicate the concept.

It’s hard sometimes. I suppose it started with the extreme pain often associated with mouthing the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s not that we fail to see our error. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we think the circumstances are so obvious that there shouldn’t be a need to pronounce the words out loud.

It reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The young man, who had taken all of his inheritance and squandered it in a Las Vegas lifestyle, found himself down and out, living in “Hog Hell.” He rehearses a speech which he decides to share with his father upon returning home, hat in hand, to ask forgiveness. But when he arrives home, the father sees him coming and runs out to greet him, showering him with gifts of acceptance and immediately incorporating him back into the household. Now, I’m sure the boy was tempted to think, “Everything’s cool. Dad’s on board with me coming home. He knows I’m sorry. Let’s just get on about the business of being family again.” If he had done that, the story would have been incomplete. Because as the tale continues, even though the father has already accepted him, the son still delivers the speech he had rehearsed in the pig pen.

Words are necessary. They are the only confirmation we have that our hearts have aligned correctly. Jesus said it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”

Yes. I need to say it: “Thank you.” And you need to say, “You’re welcome.” Yes. It is required of me that I actually say, “I love you” instead of just holding the door open. I need to produce words that can be heard to confirm that I was wrong. I need to hear you say the same.

When words get stuck in the back of our throats, they collect and end up choking us to death. They drain the life from our relationships, stealing moments that would define the tenderness and depth of our commitment. This is why we ask people to stand in front of witnesses and speak their love for one another to confirm marriage.

The notion that I am supposed to know what you feel without hearing you say it is the beginning of all misunderstanding.

· Hymns are to be sung, not mumbled.

· Liturgy should be articulated instead of being reluctantly recited.

· Testimony should be offered instead of an “amen” spoken in unison by a congregation at the end of a pre-fabricated prayer.

What are words for? They are the only way we know for sure that someone is still alive. But they do tend to get stuck in the back of our throats, and our only way of contradicting our generation’s sense of mum and pride is to crack through our own reticence—and tell somebody what we really feel.

The first few times you do it, it’ll hurt like hell. You’ll feel stupid and awkward. That is, until you see the face of your friend and loved one light up, and you realize how long they’ve been waiting to hear you say it.

Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
%d bloggers like this: