So it turns out that the way the human throat is designed – the way our larynx sits a bit lower in the trachea – helps makes it possible for us to create a multitude of sounds and also makes it easier for us to choke on our food.
That’s quite a trade-off: Voice or safety?
“Words can draw us together or drive us apart, but every time we speak, our throats physically risk choking in pursuit of community,” Rachel Hackenberg writes in Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian. “We can be silent, or we can be together. We can embark on faith alone, or we can use our words to reach out to God and to one another along faith’s journey.”
I think of that after I tell my teenager to stop knocking on my office door when it is closed, after I lecture him on the importance of my work. I risk choking to deliver a message I should have choked back.
But the truth? It’s hard to think of the feelings of others when you are gasping for air because you’ve swallowed the idea of the white picket fence. It’s easy for the idea of perfection to get caught in your throat. It comes with weighty to-do lists and piles of commitments, and before you realize it, it all begins to feel like a million splinters passed by your larynx.
And when the vibrations of our voice make their way upward, those are the shards and shapes they hit. So, yeah, sometimes by the time the words make it past all our hurts and disappointments they aren’t building up anything or anyone. Sometimes our words aren’t worth the risk of choking.
How do we change that? It starts with what we allow in. We can guard against gossip and negativity, and we can welcome what is noble and true. We can find what is lovely and admirable and let it work like a balm on our scratchy throats. When the stress and the worry seem to grow, we can breathe in God’s peace and exhale grace.
Then, what we say will build community. Then, what we say will have real value.