Why It Is Important to Tell Our Stories
There seems to be a growing interest in sharing our own personal life experiences and hearing those of others. Social media is the most obvious example of this – brief thoughts, photos, and Periscope videos give us a glimpse into the thoughts and lives of others. Even much of professionally produced content is becoming increasingly personal. Many of the chart-topping podcasts are simply people sharing anecdotal glimpses into their lives (The Moth, Strangers, Love + Radio, etc.) There have also been some really artful and beautiful personal documentaries produced recently including my favorite film of 2013 – Stories We Tell. (If you have not seen it yet, skip reading this and go watch it instead. It’s on Netflix so you have no excuse.)
Sometimes these personal storytellers are accused of being vain, narcissistic, or exhibitionist. Maybe some of them are. But for the vast majority, I think the great courage, grace, and humility it takes to share a deeply personal experience squashes any pride or hubris in the teller. It is scary to share your life with others. As a personal storyteller, you are opening up your soul to be examined by strangers who can love, hate, judge, or dismiss you as they choose.
Sharing these stories is therapeutic not just for the teller but also for the listener. We each long to be known and loved but I think we each long to know and love others as well. The sharing of a personal story is like the giving of a gift that brings joy to both the giver and the receiver. I am so honored when I hear a personal story. That someone would gift me with a piece of their history and allow me a glimpse into what makes them bold and flawed and beautiful is deeply moving to me.
Even though I may not be able to relate to the specifics of each of these stories, there is some deeply human struggle underneath each of these stories that I recognize. I see the beauty. I join in laughter with their joy. Tears stream down my face when I hear the pain and confusion. Something deep in my soul resonates with the very personal experiences of others.
A friend tells me her story of dealing with infertility and navigating the ethically and emotionally complex world of fertility treatments and I think, “Yeah. Me too.” Even though I have never had to deal with fertility issues.
I hear the story of a Hassidic Jewish man who was exiled from his religious community and forbidden from seeing his family and I think, “Yeah. Me too.” Even though I am neither Jewish nor a man.
I hear the story of LGBTQ Christians trying to find their place in the Church and I think, “Yeah. Me too.” Even though I am not LGBTQ myself.
I watch the story of a woman struggling to bring together her religious and bi-racial heritage after the shocking revelation of her biological father’s real identity and I think, “Yeah. Me too.” Even though I am not bi-racial and I have never had to question my parentage.
It is so important to tell our stories. The stories we are proud of and the stories we still do not understand. The stories with happy endings and the stories we are still waiting to see how they will end. We can tell our stories over coffee, on the phone, through social media, or for the really courageous among us – on larger platforms like books, films, and podcasts. You never know who needs to hear your stories. You never know how opening up your life in even small ways can deeply resonate with and touch others. I know I have been illuminated and moved and healed by so many of your stories. Please keep telling them.