“My story is important not because it is mine…but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.” Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets
We’re all storytellers. From earliest recollections, most of us can remember being read to from storybooks as young children. Some of these tales were funny, some sad, some were meant to impart a life lesson, others just for fun. But every one contributed to our worldview…and helped to develop our critical thinking process, either accurately or not so. What we believe(d) shapes our behavior and our thinking; it did then and continues on our entire lives. Which is why it is so valuable to continue this practice into adulthood. Unfortunately, many don’t give enough thought to how much impact they have on those around them (and vice versa) via sharing their stories. So they stop talking; about what matters, that is.
As adults living in a high-tech society, it is so easy to become automatons. Self-dependent, self-sufficient, self-protective; to the nth degree we have mastered the art of solo status…in ways that are the most costly. Sure, we live in families, we may share an office, attend neighborhood gatherings, yet simultaneously we remain apart. Author Frederick Buechner writes that one of the dangers of giving in to this “separateness-strategy” is that we come to believe our fictional and “highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.” Only as people venture forth with prudent self-story telling for the purpose enriching someone else’s life will others offer similar exchanges, and says Buechner, these purposeful acts, “have a lot to do with what being human is all about.”
Counselors routinely sit opposite desperately hurting individuals who are simply in need of a listening, empathetic ear. Sadly, our society has placed such premium on projecting the image and illusion of perfection, that genuine self-disclosure is becoming a rare commodity indeed. For want of an ordinary “good word”…some are forced to make an appointment with a professional just to get a hearing. Not that counselors aren’t needed, they are, but as lay individuals we must consider how much we have to offer one another by merely living lives of honesty.
Reasons to Tell a Story
*For Laughs. Make my day by making me smile. Universally, laughing is good medicine for both body and soul. Determine to adopt the “be what’s missing” in this situation motto. Look for ways to exchange anger for kindness; rudeness for courtesy; irritability for patience. If lighthearted encouraging words escape you, simply offer your smile.
*For Learning. Pass on personal insight to others. Not everyone wants to grow through the school of hard knocks, so be willing to share your particular blend of knowledge+experience=maturity formula.
*For Good Mental Health. Every human experience is a common one. Though specifics may be unique, underlying emotions that drive individuals are not. Be willing to offer transparency when appropriate, a consistent voice of encouragement, and admissions of “having walked that road before.”