The Fear of Public Speaking

By Jerry Smith

Surveys indicate that public speaking is one of the most terrifying things for people. When we are afraid to speak in front of people it indicates something beyond the fear, perhaps even egocentricity that overrides the message. It may be that we feel the message is not important enough to overpower our fear. Fear of speaking in public includes fear that I might say something wrong, that I may make a mistake, they might laugh at me, everybody is looking at me, I may disappoint people, I might not look good enough, etc. These are all self-centered concerns that boil down to pride. The focus is not on the people who need to hear your message but on yourself and your concerns.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount began by the Lord "opening His mouth" (Matthew 5:2). The Lord came to us with an urgent, eternal message to share. It did not matter to Him what he looked like (compare with Isaiah 53:2-3), sounded like, or felt like. The message was more important. Peter at Pentecost cared not how many people were out there or what they might think of him. He had a message to share and he was going to share it (Acts 2:14). He was not concerned about how he looked, if the people would laugh at him, or how well he could stand and deliver (e.g. the scripted movements of guest speakers during a TED talk). But Peter, "standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words..." Peter had something very important that the people needed to hear!

We read of Paul on Mars Hill whose spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city given wholly over to idolatry (Acts 17:16). Paul was absolutely bothered. He was not concerned about how it might affect him but that these people needed to hear the truth. He just had to tell them about God and His Son Jesus Christ. Not for his sake, but for theirs. He had a purpose, an objective, a message to be shared! Jeremiah said that the Word of God was like a fire in him when he tried to be quiet (Jeremiah 20:9). He thought he could just keep quiet and "not make mention of God, nor speak any more in his name." However, that did not work too well because the important message for the people of Israel that God gave him could not be bound. As Jeremiah says, "his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."

Each person mentioned above had something to say without concern whether people liked them or what people thought of them. God shows us in His Word that when you have something important to say, you will say it because your concern is more about the people receiving your message than your own self. We could go through the prophets and the New Testament to see more. Even the people of the world share their passions with passion seemingly unconcerned about what people think of them. Choose any number of Hollywood advocates. What is your passion? What is it that you have to say? Do we seek to put people first? Do we seek to bring Christ into everything we speak about? Do we desire to sprinkle the Word of God into our secular lectures or speeches? If we did, it might make our message even more important for others to hear, driving us to actually want to speak.

The Lord teaches us in Proverbs 15:1 that "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD." If we are afraid of speaking in public perhaps what we have to say is not too important one might surmise. At least not important enough to overcome our fears. Perhaps in a spiritual setting what we have to say is not the Word of God but opinions. Do you want to overcome your fear of speaking? Say something you must say. Something that the audience must hear. Something that would benefit them. Something that if they did not know they would be at a loss. Something you feel passionate about. Think about the last time you were speaking to a family member, a friend, or a group of friends about a great movie or song you saw or heard, or maybe an accident that happened. You did not seem to care that all eyes were on you. True, these are people you know not strangers but the principle is the same. When we have something important (to us) to share we can't not share it. We find a way!

Sadly, because we are not passionate enough about our relationship with the Lord, or what He has to say in His Word, or not passionate enough about telling others about Jesus Christ because (1) the Lord commanded it, and (2) people need the Lord (so sharing becomes an act of love for my neighbor), we allow our fears to rule over us. Yet, how many times has the Lord told us to fear not and be not afraid? He has even told us that He will be with us until the end. What then is it that we fear? Who are we more fearful of? The people looking at us or God Himself? Perhaps, in view of God, we may find that our fears are irrational and even prideful.

The next time you are asked to speak whether in a spiritual or secular realm consider sharing something that is on your heart. Whatever the topic let it be important to the audience. See how you can incorporate Christ or His Word into your message — letting your words be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). Maybe you are asked to speak about something that is far from God (you may think) but prayerfully seek the Lord and ask for wisdom how God can be a part of your message if even in some small way. I have done it and it works. You can too.

Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson; "Back Lighting"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life

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Published on 5-30-17