Stories Worth Telling (Part 5)

Have you shared your story?

Everyone has a story worth telling. You may never know the impact your story might have in another life.

Some people can’t imagine sharing their story—too embarrassed or shy, afraid nobody will care. Others can’t resist any opportunity to spill their guts.

Either extreme reduces the potential positive impact, so we’ve been looking at some principles to make story-sharing as effective as possible in spreading hope and encouragement.

So far we’ve looked at:

Today we’re going to look at a difficult principle to apply:


To me, effective story-sharing involves balance, taking the risk to share truth in a way that’s hopeful and encouraging. I don’t edit for my needs. I don’t try to make it better (or worse) than it really is, or to reduce my own level of discomfort.

I edit based on my perception of the audience and what I know about their needs and experiences. I tell the story differently to middle school kids than to men in a residential drug rehab setting. I use different language and examples with a community service organization than I might with a church group.

I never edit to make the audience more or less comfortable or to evoke a particular emotional response. Tears are not a bad thing, but neither are they the goal. My purpose is to talk honestly, transparently, and appropriately. I try to be sensitive without taking responsibility for others’ feelings and reactions.

Editing is tricky business, and I’m sure I don’t always get it right. Here are a few rules I’ve discovered.

“Tell the truth” doesn’t mean “dump the trash.”

Sometimes people confuse sharing with dumping—everything comes out raw and uncensored. “Tell it like it is” means including the gory details, horrific personal emotions, and deepest, darkest thoughts.

Certainly we encounter situations and seasons when we just need to get it all out. That’s the time for a counselor, pastor, or trusted friend. We need people who’ll just listen, often without commenting, always without judging. These folks act like a lightening rod—they take the junk and just ground it before it can cause damage.

That’s a healthy thing, but it’s not helpful story-sharing.

Many aspects of my personal journey simply aren’t appropriate to share in most situations. In my opinion, “celebrities” often dump their personal lives in an attempt to gain attention and sympathy. Revealing such details serves no purpose except to impress listeners with a false sense of authenticity.

This isn’t about being politically correct or avoiding any potential offense. Instead, it’s about not offending intentionally or unnecessarily. It’s about speaking with Grace And Truth.

No gossip—none, never.

This means simply that I’m telling MY story, and it’s not okay to tell someone else’s.

An agent once rejected Relentless Grace because he felt I’d omitted important details about a past relationship. Perhaps he was right—those details would have made the story a bit juicier and filled in a few gaps. But I’m convinced that including them would have hurt others, and I couldn’t justify that for the sake of selling a book.

Usually I’m tempted to gossip as a way of blaming or rationalizing, making sure the listener knows I wasn’t the only person who made bad decisions. I wish I could claim that I’ve never yielded to that temptation.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

Don’t preach or moralize.

The story speaks for itself. Listeners can draw their own conclusions. They’ll learn what they need to learn. I don’t need to spell out the “moral of the story” for them, and doing so seems disrespectful.

For me, the best way to accomplish this is to allow time for discussion and questions. That allows the listeners, whether it’s a group or an individual, to tell me what they want to know.

But there’s a condition—I reserve the right to “not answer” any question.

What are your thoughts? Has this been helpful? What’s your experience with sharing your story? What other guidance can you offer?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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