by Conference Minister Diane Weible
Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong talks about the stories we tell ourselves.
The title of my Doctor of Ministry Thesis is “The Danger of the Single Story.”
Stories are little pictures of all of humanity. When they become dangerous is when we see them as the only reality that matters. These kinds of stories may be the stories we tell ourselves or they may be the stories that are our reality that we assume is reality for everyone else even if it isn’t. Sometimes they are stories that other people tell us are reality when it is not our reality. Sometimes they are just stories meant to make us believe something that someone else wants us to believe.
I heard a radio advertisement the other day that quoted an article saying our DNA as humans is 99.9% the same. That may be true but even more true is that each one of us has history and experiences and things we tell ourselves and things other people have told us. All those things, along with the race, sex, sexual identity, ethnicity and other factors, make us unique and special. My reality and my story is not going to be the reality and the story of someone who grew up in different circumstances or has a different skin color or experienced something in life that I have never even had to think about. Our DNA may be the same but our stories are not.
Likewise, the stories we tell ourselves come out of things other people have told us about who we are or who they think we are. They also come out of experiences that have shaped the way we view ourselves and the way we view others. They may be true; they may not. We may say them so many times that we believe them, whether they are true or not; whether believing them is good for us or not. In some ways, that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with the stories we tell ourselves. Do we embrace them and allow them to make us a better person? Do we discard what is damaging and painful in our stories that prevent us from becoming the person God intended us to be?
Stories. In some ways, more than DNA, we are made up of stories. [Please, no emails from the scientists in our community—I’m working on a metaphor here!] The stories we make up about ourselves and the stories we make up about others have the ability to transform the way we live and work with one another—for good and for bad. Each little picture of reality will give us part of the truth about what our world looks like and what we need to focus on to become a whole-hearted people.
Brene Brown, on Page 40, of Rising Strong, says, “Men and women who rise strong are willing and able to rumble with their stories. By Rumble I mean they get honest about the stories they’ve made up about their struggles and they are willing to re-visit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as they dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity and forgiveness. Rumbling with these topics and moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors gives birth to key learnings about who we are and how we engage with others. The Rumble is where whole-heartedness is cultivated and change begins.”
I love this idea of Rumbling with our stories. I cannot know what you have experienced in life unless you tell me. And, if you choose to trust me with your sacred story, I cannot hear it unless I’m willing to listen deeply. Likewise, I cannot live a healthy and whole life if the stories I tell myself are stories that tell me I’m not good enough or strong enough or pretty enough or courageous enough. Sometimes I can turn those stories around and see that they are not true but sometimes I need help from someone else to help me see my own story differently. Again, I can only do that if I have built a relationship with that person so that I can be vulnerable enough to trust my story and my view of my story with someone who is willing to listen.
I hope that our Community in this Conference will be a Community filled with storytelling in safe and sacred ways. I pray that we will all practice deep listening and deep trusting so that we can learn from one another and become the whole-hearted Community that Brene Brown talks about.