What were some practical things you did to overcome your fear of public speaking?
Well I suppose not everybody knows the story, but this question comes out of a paralysis, a pretty serious physiological and psychological inability I had from about grade 6 (I don't remember much before six) until between my sophomore and junior year of college.
And it wasn't funny. It wasn't like when you get butterflies in front of a group or your knees shake or whatever. It was never funny. It was blood earnest because I simply couldn't do it.
And it was absolutely humiliating when I was forced to try. Like when we had this training union thing in church where you had to give parts that lasted one minute. And I would hold a card, and it would shake so bad. And everybody would start to look at their laps. They would feel so tense. And I would go home and cry, and my mother would try and...
Well anyway, that's the background to this question.
The answer is that I didn't know what to do. I didn't do anything that I know of to overcome it. God stepped in in the summer of 1966 and gave me, for whatever reason I cannot remember, the wherewithal to say "Yes" to Chaplin Evan Welch at Wheaton College who asked me to pray in summer chapel with about 500 people.
I asked him how long you had to pray, and he said, "Thirty seconds." And I said "Yes," but I have no idea why I was willing. And I walked back and forth on front campus pleading with the Lord, "If you will get me through thirty seconds without bombing, without my voice choking up and or trembling so bad that everybody is totally embarrassed for me, I will never again out of fear say 'No" to a speaking engagement."
I made a vow, and he did it. And I just feel like something broke. I don't know what!
If I look back now and try to think of one practical thing to try, I would see if somebody could've just coached me, maybe, on how to breathe or how to do your shoulders. I was so physiologically incapacitated there may have been some clues somebody could've given me. But I don't know what it was. I think it probably was rooted in some deep embarrassments that I had as a little kid. But I don't know.
Anyway, I don't want to mainly say that practical things were done by me to help me overcome. I looked away from myself to God, and I did my best to trust and take a risk. And something spiritually broke, and I give him thanks to this day.