Everything that happens has a purpose. If you believe this is true, even mundane coincidences have meaning. If everything you go through is for a reason, even the lowest and most painful moments are vital to the plot. To skip them would be to miss the point. Yet these shameful, gut-wrenching, or embarrassing moments are the ones we tend to scrub from our memories. We sanitize our stories and leave them without dynamism.
Our children love fairy tales filled with darkness and light, and we read them with relish. But we leave our true stories untold. We become propagandists rather than storytellers. We tell our story as a sweeping tale of the motherland without revealing the evils lurking beneath the veneer of beauty and perfection. But these empty stories have no impact. We are all broken, every one of us. Your edited story is a lie at its worst and an illusion at its best.
“The vital power of an imaginative work demands a diversity within its unity; and the stronger the diversity, the more massive the unity. Incidentally, this is the weakness of most ‘edifying’ or ‘propaganda’ literature. There is no diversity. … You cannot, in fact, give God His due without giving the devil his due also.”
As I sat across from her at breakfast, I listened to a mother tell me, through tears, of the pain and brokenness in her daughter’s life. She would have done anything to bring wholeness to her child. And so would any of us. Yet, for reasons unknown to us, the hurt continues. A story is emerging. The narrative grips us through contrasts between evil and good, darkness and light. We would sanitize it and gloss over the unflattering bits, but the grit is where the grace gets in.
In the Christian worldview, those who walk in truth will overcome evil through the word of their testimony. Testimony given in a court of law is not propaganda. It is a faithful rendering of all the details pertinent to the case. Our stories are important enough to God that they hold great importance in eschatology. They will ultimately render evil powerless. Your story brings meaning to what sometimes seems senseless and illuminates universal truths for those who need them.
Why Tell Your Story?
A well-told life story helps the hearers develop empathy. When we listen to a first-person account told by a murderer, we begin to see their humanity. Where once we saw only the horrific act of violence they committed, we see a broken human being. It is humbling to put ourselves in the shoes of someone we formerly despised and ask ourselves, “If I had lived their life, would I have done differently?”
Through honest storytelling, we gain insights into our motivations and perspective for our past experiences. We learn that real life is perplexing and nuanced. As a child, I believed that lying is always wrong. I remember listening as my father read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It tells of their struggle to survive Nazism while protecting as many Jewish families as possible. Their friends hid silently behind a false wall while they assured the authorities no one else was in the house. Though I didn’t understand why at the time, I thought their choice to lie was right. That moral dilemma stayed with me into adulthood and sparked an interest in philosophy and ethics.
Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself …” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
A true life story undergirds enduring friendship. Though I believe in the power of a personal brand and social media marketing, the highly curated lives most of us depict there are bland and powerless. But authentic stories allow us to see ourselves in another, bond with them, and walk alongside them. It seems to me that in our hyperconnected world, friendship should thrive. As more of us tell the truth, perhaps social media will become a forum for true friendship that transitions to across-the-table face-to-face interaction.
Our stories need to be accommodated to the audience, to be sure, and we cannot plaster personal details all over the internet. But many aspects of your life will help others if you are generous and vulnerable. Your story is significant. It is yours to share, and we need it to help us overcome the evil we face as our stories unfold. Tell it truthfully.
Start Sharing Your Story
Are there parts of your story that you have never shared with anyone? I challenge you to begin opening up. Start with someone safe, and bring the dark episodes of your life into the light. Learn from them and grow through the process of sharing.
Most of us dream of writing a book or sharing an impactful message. If you feel that tug on your heart, you must meet John Stange. He is a pastor and a personal friend who runs Platform Launchers, a community that supports those who want to build a message-based business. No one succeeds alone, and Platform Launchers provides a safe space to develop your message.
Whether you start telling your story privately or publicly, take courage, open your mouth, and remember that your life story is powerful.
John Stange wants you and your online platform to succeed! He is the founder of Platform Launchers and has been writing and podcasting for years. His shows have been downloaded millions of times, his blog ranks #1 in Google searches, and he was recently published by Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the United States. ↩︎
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