Last month I attended a conference where author Shauna Niequist intermittently got up to give readings that ended each time with this directive: “Your story must be told.” It’s a powerful truth—one I’ve written and spoken about quite a bit myself. Although, I didn’t always agree with—or even understand—the importance of telling our own stories.
You see, I didn’t grow up in one of those story-telling families, the type that sits around the table sharing funny bits from their days or serendipitous occurrences. Neither were we the types to share stories of how God showed up, when all seemed lost (even though I’m sure this happened to each of us). Instead, we’d talk issues and current events, maybe share a bit of gossip or school news. We kept each other updated with the details of our lives with questions and answers—and certainly let each other know we loved one other—but we didn’t tell stories. At least not very often.
In fact, one of the bits of “wisdom” that was passed on through the generations in both sides my family was this: “It’s rude to talk about yourself. No one wants to hear it.” I was told this verbatim from my parents, and I was “told” it whenever I heard them mocking a person who’d go “on and on” with some story “about themselves.”
But the funny thing was, that I always loved hearing these people who went on and on, who told crazy stories of their lives, who shared the funny bits, the serendipities that make life amazing. I loved sitting around the tables of those families who talked incessantly about themselves. It was interesting and was my favorite way to get to know someone.
But even as I loved other people’s stories, I could never get over the nagging sense somewhere in my head that it was “rude” to tell my stories and that no one would care. So I didn’t. For most of my life.
And I seemed to get on fine. I went through my life with plenty of friends, with teachers who liked me, applauded my work and encouraged by gifts, and with colleagues and bosses who, well, tended to do the same. All along the way I felt known even though I didn’t share many stories.
Caryn is a well received author, speaker, and the managing editor for Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership blog. She's the author of Mama's Got a Fake ID and is the mother of three children. You can catch her musings or find information on her book at www.carynrivadeneira.com