“The King’s Speech” is the powerful, Oscar-winning true story of one man’s quest to find his voice and of those closest to him who help him find it. For a description of the story, read my last blog post.
As the red light in King George VI’s broadcast room begins blinking to signal the momentous moment for the royal global broadcast, his speech therapist and friend Lional Logue, knowing how nervous the King is, says to the King, “Forget everything else and just say it to me.”
In the next 3 posts, I want to unpack the three parts of that statement. What do they say about discovering your unique, personal significance (your voice) and how can you use your voice to put your unique stamp on the world.
1. “Forget everything else.”
This first part of Lionel’s statement might be the toughest for some of us–“forget everything else.” In this context, it’s forgetting all the obstacles and challenges that tend to intimidate you into silence or timidity or hesitation or staying with the status quo, taking the easiest route ahead.
For King George VI it was the huge audience of millions around the globe; it was the fear of not being able to speak, to have his words choke in his throat and not come out; the fear of failure; the fear of not being enough; fear of now having anything of substance to offer his people. These are HUGE obstacles for the King.
Salon’s review of the King’s history put it in perspective: “For all the pomp and privilege of his upbringing, Bertie was essentially an abused child, tormented by nannies, plagued by childhood ailments and raised in isolation from the outside world. He barely knew his parents (Michael Gambon plays King George V, his father), had no real friends, wore painful leg braces and suffered from early childhood from a chronic stammer that made his public appearances painful for everyone. Perhaps the last monarch reared in the old aristocratic style, with a father who ruled at least nominally over one-fourth of the globe’s population, Bertie was literally a man trapped between worlds. As Firth plays him, the prickly prince (who spent his early career as a naval officer and teacher) is eager to take offense yet painfully shy, fully aware that the monarchy has become a defanged symbolic contrivance in an age of radio and motorcars, yet halfway convinced that divine right is still involved somewhere.”
He’s a man of ambivalence and conflict–unsure of who he really is and unsure of what his real role as King is suppose to be in this new era, and definitely unsure of whether he can fulfill it or not. He’s a man with a painful past that’s still destructively shaping his present.
So when King George VI finally stands in front of the mike to deliver the most important speech he’s ever delivered and the nation has ever heard, his therapist and friend says, “Forget everything else.”
The Christian scriptures echo Lionel Logue with this significant perspective: “12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which God has shaped me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14
Considering the author of these words, this counsel is particularly apropos. St. Paul had quite a colorful past on both sides of the scale. He had achieved great religious significance in his Jewish community–PhD in theology, schooled in the most prestigious schools of religion, impeccable family tree, considered at the top of the religious pyramid. He was so zealous for the Church’s religious cause that he was point person for the persecution, arrest, and even in some cases, execution of heretics and dissenters of the Jewish faith. Until he had a dramatic conversion experience and suddenly was convicted that he needed to join the very team he was trying to exterminate. A dramatic turn around, to say the least!
So when he writes about the importance of forgetting the past (both successes and failures), not getting locked in the past, in order the speak his voice in the present with authenticity and truth, he knows what he’s talking about.
Forgetting the past isn’t about denying it. It’s not about pretending it never happened. It’s actually about being willing to honor your past, to embrace its reality, to learn from it, to grow from it, to acknowledge that it’s forever a part of your story and your journey. It’s about letting that past inform you and seeing how it has shaped you. And then it’s about letting it go enough to keep it from holding you back in guilt or pride, and moving boldly and confidently into your future by finding your true voice and speaking it.
This is my story, too. I have to let go of the chains of the past in order to courageously step into my truth, in order to stand in the power of my unique authority and show up boldly in the world.
There is no one else on this planet who has my voice, who has my unique experiences from the past and present, who has my individual truth learned from those experiences, and therefore who can speak just like I can. Right? If I don’t find my true voice and speak it courageously, the world loses out. And if I can’t let go of the chains of the past enough to step into my freedom and personal authority, I deprive myself and the world of important truth. The same goes for you, too.
PERSONAL REFLECTION: What are the obstacles or challenges that tend to hold you back from standing in confidence of who you are and giving voice to your truth and convictions? What tends to keep you from living and speaking with YOUR voice?
Any thoughts about your own journey of “forgetting the past” and what that process has been like for you?
In the next post, I’ll talk about what it takes to find your individual unique voice.