Our stories have the power to change lives.
As human beings, storytelling is wired into the very core of us. Stories are how we learn and how we relate. They are strange little things, collections of words and images that can move us profoundly and cause us to change course.
One of the things that we are focusing heavily on at The Seattle School is the importance of intentionally learning our own stories (we are often unaware of the stories that make up our lives), owning those stories, and speaking them in ways that prompt change and movement. Sharing stories can bring us into intimacy with each other in powerful ways.
So why don’t we speak?
Why don’t we hold our stories of pain and heartbreak, joy and triumph, out to the world with hands of invitation and words that say “come, join me in this messy thing we call life.”
Our stories are tied directly to who we are, they are little pieces of ourselves. To hold those pieces out to the world means that they will get torn apart. We learn this at a young age. Shame comes into play, we get made fun of when we express who we really are, so we learn to hide. We stuff our stories down, learning to only speak of surface experience, like that one time we saw a duck on the sidewalk in the middle of the city. The stories that require involvement, that require engagement with our desires, hopes, dreams, and heartaches stay deep inside. It’s too risky to bring them out into the world.
We go through life watching other people’s stories, dreaming of being like Walter in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but all the while eliminating as much risk as possible. We gather around our screens, movies, tv, instagram, facebook – other stories, not our own, and we dream. Someday, maybe.
It’s so scary to open up.
Yet, what are the consequences when we don’t? What happens to us when we look up from the screen and realize that we’ve spent the last five years in the living room instead of out there in the world? What happens when the only stories we know are the ones that we’ve been told by other people? We’re addicted to stories, yet we become unable to tell our own.
When we tell our stories, we draw people in. Each of us has a perspective on life that is unique, we each hold wisdom and insight that no one else in the world possesses. When we speak, we enter into conversation, and we bring ourselves. We change things.
Sometimes, those stories are just whispers said with trembling voices, confessing things we’ve never told another soul. Sometimes they are loud and clear proclamations. Every time we speak, we change the world. When we tell of our experiences, the things that make us unique, we bear testament to the image of God that is within each one of us.
Our words have power. My sister often talks about how the words that we speak create the realities that we live within. Language is important. What are we creating when we spend our entire lives peering into other people’s stories instead of witnessing our own?
We must speak. We must be intentional.
We don’t know who is listening. We don’t know what we are changing when we speak, but every time we bring ourselves, or don’t bring ourselves, things change. The question is, are we moving out into the world, or are we stifling?
Be brave. Be bold. Speak.
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