October 2017 archive

The Power of Shared Story

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I was sitting in the fourth row surrounded by hundreds of people perched on the edge of their seats awaiting the wisdom that would soon flood the stage. With an empty seat in front of me, I had clear vision of the speakers who sat in executive leather chairs facing the audience. As the session began, a sense of relief spilled over me. The conversation instantly pierced my weary heart as I thought, “Me, too.”

As she poignantly responded to each prose, the speaker’s authentic approach penetrated the doubting places of my heart and called me to rise up in self-worth and acknowledge that I was no longer alone. She expressed inner thoughts that I felt were only crashing inside my own brain. She illuminated fears and self-doubt that I had previously assumed were only felt by me. She shared personal struggles that turned out to be universal among many. Her openness invited me into a place of belonging. Her willingness to share her story broke the barriers I felt trapped in for so long. I no longer felt alone.

This has happened to all of us at one time or another. Maybe you were sitting in a church service and the pastor said something that ripped through to your very core and felt meant just for you. Maybe a friend shared their story with you and you couldn’t resist nodding your head in agreement at every word they spoke because each one resonated inside your heart. Maybe you read a book or heard a song that finally put words to the way you had been feeling. Maybe, like me, you attended a conference and a speaker expressed a message that washed over your spirit like cool water in the midst of a drought.

From that moment on, your life was probably different. Not only do we feel a sense of relief when someone expresses feelings that we feel, but we are also overwhelmed with a sense of belonging and validation. The “Me too” feeling is powerful. It breaks down walls that we construct around our hearts. It shatters the windows of isolation that we look out from. It invites us to walk alongside each other instead of alone and behind everyone else.

In each of these scenarios, someone entered into a space of vulnerability and was willing to share their story with us. Had they resigned themselves to isolation, we would not benefit from inclusion. If stories and experiences remained locked within the bearer, no one would belong. We would all be alone within the confines our feelings.

The power of sharing our stories is monumental. When we give a voice to our feelings and a platform to our experience, we invite others into the fold. When we shed light on the dark places, shame is removed, fear is absolved, and doubt is erased. Light penetrates the darkness and shines truth over the lies we convince ourselves of. When one person is bold to share their experience, it releases others into the freedom to share their own. What our parents told us is true: sharing is caring. When we share our hearts with one another, we are caring for the well-being of one another.

Many people often tell me that they envy how open I am about my journey. Saying, “I wish I was as bold as you,” or “No one would listen to what I have to say.” And this pains me, because it’s not only untrue, but is a deception that so many fall into. The comparison game is unending. What we must first understand is the difference between circumstance and story.  Our stories are unique and individual, while our circumstances may be shared. Comparisons come when we confuse the two and believe that because our circumstances may be similar our stories must be comparative. The truth is, circumstances happen to us all, but stories are uniquely given to each of us and no two are the same. Comparison is harmful and devastating because it kills the message. It builds walls when we should be breaking them down.

Comparison, at its root, is a thief. It robs us of joy and life and abundance. Comparison causes us to draw within ourselves and continues the cycle of isolation. We must stop comparing our voices to one another. We must stop comparing our circumstances and our experiences. Instead, we should unite and share our stories to show one another that none of us are alone in our suffering, and in our grief, and in our pain. The truth is we are all suffering, and no pain is greater or less than.

Sometimes we wonder if we actually do have a voice. We confuse extroverted and introverted personalities for the effectiveness of platform. We assume that extroverts have a louder voice and introverts have a more quiet one. While the volume of our voices may differ, our platforms are the same. Think about this — do you interact with other people throughout your day, week, or month? Whether you are confined to your home for medical reasons, in a fast-paced sales career, or are a stay-at-home mother, we all have interpersonal interactions. It may be with your neighbor, your spouse, your children, your online community, or even strangers in the grocery store. If you have people around you (which you do), you have a platform to share your story.

Our suffering is not meant for us alone. Our circumstance ushers us into the arena together, for we all suffer. Rather than being trapped in the lie that no one else knows what we are going through, step out in faith and share. You’ll be surprised at the influence your sharing will have not only on your own heart, but on the hearts who receive your shared story. By keeping your story within, you are perpetuating someone else’s isolation. Sharing our stories is pivotal to freedom, healing, and restoration. We cannot heal what we don’t acknowledge. Freedom will never exist until the chains of silence are broken.

Your story is powerful and it needs to be shared. Invite someone to say, “Me too.”

Romans 10:14 (MSG)

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”